Posted on May 13 2020
Natural Dyeing by Lena Catterick
We’ve always worked with natural dyes and, as of late, I’ve developed a very real obsession with this incredible ancient dyeing technique.
So happy to see so many of you have shown such a keen interest... SO, here’s a little step by step I quickly put together for everyone to utilise all this extra time we have in a more creative and sustainable way.
For this particular project, I’ve used 1x avocado stone, 6x cacao beans, a handful of blueberries and a few Italian Cyprus seed cones with foliage ... but I feel like the cones didn’t actually release as much colour as I first thought they would, given that their colour hadn’t changed a whole lot after boiling (this is usually your best indicator), but hey... It’s always fun to experiment and I absolutely encourage you to!
- It's really important that the fabric made out of plant-based material is well washed (or “scoured” as it’s known as) before it's dyed. Ideally you want to use vintage or used linens/cottons instead of brand new pieces, since older material will be less waxy than new fabrics. Otherwise organic natural fibres will work just as well after a wash. I purchased these cotton muslin wraps from a bio store in the baby section, but can of course be ordered online.
- Choose your ingredients — Always try to include a tannin rich vegetable fruit or plant. Tannins occur naturally in certain plants and trees. The more tannins in a dye, the better the colorfastness.. Some ingredients, like walnut hulls, pomegranate rinds, onion peel, tea and eucalyptus leaves are used to affix the colour to the fabric, which you’ll discover when experimenting.
- Now, mordant — Mordanting requires soaking your fabric in a solution overnight or longer - longer the better. (In this case, I’ve used heavily diluted soya milk as it adds protein which opens the fibre). But other alternatives are rhubarb leaves, vinegar, salt, aluminium acetate & iron vat.
- The Dye Bath — Add your ingredients to a large pot with water, more water means less concentrated but keep in mind the water evaporates and you’ll need enough dye to later completely submerge the fabric when soaking. Boil ingredients for an hour, stirring occasionally. Then remove from the heat and seperate the ingredients from the dye. Let the dye cool down before adding your fabric — it’s important to note, your fabric needs to be wet first, so before adding, quickly dip the fabric in warm water then transfer to the dye. Let the fabric soak overnight, 20 hours at least, stirring intermittently to avoid streaks and patches. When it’s ready, rinse or wash out the excess colour in the fabric, then hang in the shade to dry! Et voila!! You can reuse the dye immediately after or store in a sealed glass jar for a few days to experiment with later!
Here are a few of my favourite natural dyers to follow, whom have and continue to help me through this process:
Maria - @marifarii
Diana - @dianamahana
Rebecca - @rebeccadesnos
I hope you also have now discovered a huge love for this incredible dyeing method... and please tag us in your dyeing journey, we would LOVE to see what colours you’ve created and how much you’re enjoying it.
Love from Lena x