natural dyeing

September/October brings change of season, and fresh starts and frivolity and seriousness too. So for a break from whipup realtime I am introducing a few weeks of guest bloggers to liven up your crafty experience. To bring you something fresh, and hopefully invigorate you to make and do and be and think! Its going to be a fun few weeks so come along for the ride.

Today I want to introduce you to one of my favourite makers – Margie Oomen from the blog resurrection fern – always innovative here she discusses her inspiration, her natural dyeing experiments, and interviews natural dye blogger Sonia Cantie.

Let us start at the beginning. My father a mathematician and electrical engineer instilled in me a very curious mind and the lifelong love of collecting natural objects as well as vintage treasures. My background is an undergraduate degree in biochemistry, a doctorate in synthetic organic chemistry and then to top that off I became a medical doctor in my spare time. Currently I am using stones smoothed by the constant energetic forces of nature collected from my travels and from the kind donations of wonderful people all over the world. I feel the ocean and the stones surrounding it connect us in ways difficult for us to fathom. I use only repurposed vintage threads and the crochet hooks were forming lace patterns long before I used them in my own two hands to cover the stones. The patterns are almost always inspired by things I have observed in nature: lichen, leaves, webs, frost patterns and snowflakes to name a few. The fractal patterns, fibonacci and other mathematical sequences are more obvious in some of the stones than in others. Most of my patterns are made up as I crochet along using the color, texture and shape of the stone to guide me.

Canadian rural physician and textile artist, Margaret Oomen has been a gatherer and maker of things for as far back as she can remember but has only been referred to as an artist in the past year. Aside from a spinning and printmaking class she is completely self-taught. She draws her inspiration from her treasure hunting family, her scientific (biochemistry and synthetic organic chemistry) and medical backgrounds and her great respect and love of the natural world. Her favorite quote is “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature, it will never fail you.” Frank Lloyd Wright. Her work has been featured in Country Living Magazine, design*sponge, uppercase magazine, apartment therapy, Elle Décor SA, Glam .com, readymade blog, whip up, craftzine blog, the purlbee blog, softies central and plush you. Her work can be found at She lives in southern Ontario with her husband, four children, three cats and a snail called fern.

NATURALLY DYEING an interview with Sonia Cantie

If anyone has been reading my little old blog this summer they would know that I have been having great fun with dyeing in my backyard laboratory this summer. My favorite part of the whole experience has been the vintage tablecloth that has a natural dyeing Pollack sort of vibe to it now. I am seriously considering hanging it on my wall when I am finished for the season. I have been so in love with the work of another dyer over the past year. Her name is Sonia and she has been meticulously and beautifully documenting her experiences on her blog Naturally Dyeing , dyeing experiments using locally grown vegetal species. I have been dying to ask Sonia a few questions.

What inspired you to get started?
Sonia: Well, several friends & flickr contacts really inspired me. I think that the very first person who inspired me was Cathy (Cullis). Then you Margie, Lisa, India Flint herself and then Eva (Tinctory) & Carolyn (Saxby). All of you girls’ dyes & experience really inspired me & motivated me to start my own dyes.

What do you plan to do with the gorgeous hand dyed fibers?
Sonia: Well, that’s still THE question for me. Naturally dyed fabrics are rather (or really) light sensitive, so I really have to think about it seriously before starting to cut into these very small pieces of fabrics.

What advice would you have for someone wanting to begin gathering and dyeing with plants?
Sonia: MY way to proceed is to gather plants that grows locally, and that are not endangered. I think it is the most eco conscious way to dye with plants. As much as I love indigo, it doesn’t grow here, so I don’t want to try using it. Local nature provides everyone enough materials to start dyeing with not a big expense. I gathered old pans, buckets, spoons, etc from my family, so I didn’t spend very much. All I bought was the mordant (alum). One last advice: try to learn (through books or online, too) about the local vegetation. Then, you can start picking things that grow locally, really knowing what you are doing, what you are picking. No way to pick something that is dangerous (poisonous), or that is endangered specie.

Thanks so much Sonia. It is always a pleasure to chat with you. Sonia sells postcards of her dyeing experiences in her etsy shop and I have heard that there will be a zine in the near future. I have already reserved my copy.

Thanks so much for having here at whipup,