Going Natural

by admin on 28/09/2006

in Community + Creativity

Bugs, dirt, mud, sawdust, fermented plants… natural dyes can give you an entire spectrum of gorgeous, deep, rich and vibrant colours. Here’s proof:

Natural Dyes

I had always shyed away from natural dyeing because so much of what I had seen was muddy brown, muddy yellow and muddy moss green… nothing that I could get excited about. But this past weekend, I was incredibly lucky to be able to attend Maiwa’s Natural Dye workshop taught by Charllotte Kwon, owner and founder of Maiwa Handprints. Using a combination of ancient natural dyes — including cochineal, fustic, osage orange, madder, logwood, lac, cutch and indigo — and the addition of alum as a mordant and iron as a colour pointer, we were able to generate a full palette of colours on silk, wool, cotton, linen and cotton/silk/rayon blends.

Natural Dyes

The last afternoon of the workshop was dedicated to natural Indigo dyeing. Above is a study of successive dipping in indigo — from one single dip in the indigo vat to ten dips — the indigo; the fibre and deepens the colour of the fabric with each dip.

The photo above is a lock of mohair that was dipped in Indigo. The base colour of the mohair, a warm honey colour, turns the final colour a warmer blue. Similarly, overdying with Indigo will create an almost translucent glazed-look to your fabric or yarn… it’s like you can see the base colour underneath and then see the indigo. It’s not this colour and, yet, it’s not that colour… The final colour seems to "vibrate" between the two giving the feeling of movement, the feeling of being alive.

Natural Dyeing Resources

Need a place to start with Natural Dyes?

Wild Color by Jenny Dean

A Dyer’s Garden by Rita Buchanan

Koekboyoa by Harald Böhmer

Indigo by Jenny Balfour-Paul

Maiwa has full instructions and recipes for the use of natural dyes and indigo here: http://www.maiwa.com/stores/supply/instructions.html

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 vegasandvenice September 28, 2006 at 1:23 am

You make the most beautiful things!! It is awe inspiring!!! Hugs!!


2 Simmyb September 28, 2006 at 3:39 am

Oh what a wonderful workshop to attend. I got the natural dyeing bug early this summer and aswell as the ones you mentioned I’ve tried dahlias, hollyhocks, blackberries, goldenrod, walnut, marigolds and many more. It’s very addictive and very exciting just seeing which plants give you what colour. I’ve dyed old blankets to give me felt, fleece to felt with and undyed knitting wool which I’ve knitted a couple of things with. Not sure if I’m supposed to plug this but I’ve done a tutorial (link in my sidebar) on natural dyeing including mordanting http://www.simmy.typepad.com/echoesofadream/ Also the Jenny Dean book is an absolute must . Check out the dyeing links on this blog too.


3 susan September 28, 2006 at 6:22 am

a feast for the eyes! wonderful!


4 Cristina September 28, 2006 at 1:17 pm

Thanks for the excellent links! I also like Gwen Fereday’s Natural Dyeing (sadly OP) for precisely the effect you describe in your discussion of over dyeing. She shows hundreds of colors produced using only five dyestuffs: weld, cochineal, madder, cutch, and indigo.


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