Natural Dyes

24 Aug

Recently i have been doing quite a lot of research into natural dyes, as i have often been inspired by nature and i like my work to be environmentally friendly or ‘green’ where possible. A book i have found particularly useful is entitled ‘Natural Dyes’ by Linda Rudkin, this book provided me with easy step by step instructions, information on how and where to obtain the dyes and what other materials i would need to source in order to use natural dyes.

Yesterday i began  dyeing natural fibres such as various untreated woolen yarns, cotton and silk. The first step is to rinse the fibres in warm water and then mordant the fibres. I chose to use alum and cream of tartar as a mordant as they were relatively easy to source. Mordanting the fibres stops the dye from rinsing out of the fibres after dyeing. Next i collected a range of fresh and dried flowers, leaves, fruit, nuts and spices for example which i added to a pan of water and simmered for up to one hour to obtain the dye. I found turmeric, red onion skins, white onion skins, hazelnut shells, brazil nut shells, nettles, cinnamon, comfrey and paprika all produced great natural dyes. After obtaining the dye it is necessary to strain the dye to remove the material from which the dye was obtained. Next add the natural fibres to the dye and simmer once again for 20 minutes to 1 hour until the natural fibres have been dyed to the desired shade. Then all you need to do is remove the fibres from the dye and rinse in warm water before hanging out to dry. The excess dye can be re-used a couple of times before being disposed of. For more details i would recommend ‘Natural Dyes’ a book by Linda Rudkin as i mentioned above.

Below is a slideshow of some of the basic steps which i have explained: Mordanting the fibres, chopped fresh nettle leaves ready to be simmered, red onion skins being simmered to obtain the dye, fibres dyed using turmeric, the excess dye cooling down in jars and the dyed fibres drying on the washing line.

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