Some time ago I had read an article on ancient dyes – this was specifically on the blue which was used by the Picts and Celts, which we all became familiar with on the warrior faces in the film Braveheart. This really tickled my interest, and together with my love of walking in nature and growing things, realised that there is so much around us that is full of colour – and in the modern instant world we live in – have forgotten everything our forefathers did to extract the beauty of nature.
I have since become quite obsessed, and when I am out walking, keep looking for plants that can yield a dye. The best thing of this whole newly found passion, is that I am actually forcing myself to learn more about the plants that grow in the fields – and in my garden. This will enable me to know what and when I can forage. And I just love that I’m am learning a new skill, and learning more about my natural surroundings.
The pantry is now full of bottles of various potions, I have bags of red and brown onion skins, little boxes of bark, and of lichen which I’ve picked up off the forest floor. The deep freeze has little room for food at the moment – instead there are bags of elderberry, blackberry, avocado pips, and passion fruit skins – these donated by a dear friend. I have sourced two good books, an already far to small pot, and various other things collected to start experimenting.
I sourced organic cotton scarves from a UK based company , and waited for quite some time before they had stock, and then I was very excited to know their arrival was imminent. In my mind I was going to make beautiful natural dyed scarves in various patterns, using different techniques, and different materials. And then I slipped and badly broke my shoulder – for months I could only just sit and look at the most beautiful fabrics and wait.
But, these things pass, and as I healed up, have managed to make a start. Experimentation is definitely key here; I have read – and now experienced – that there are so many variables, you never really know what you are going to get, and this makes it so much more interesting. Different water, different soils, different seasons, types of fabric and mordant techniques – all play an important part. I have learnt so far that I need patience, and more patience if I am to succeed, and need to just keep trying.
I am very happy with the few pieces that I have made up to now though. Here are some photos of cotton dyed with a variety of natural materials found on my doorstep. Plants like ivy leaves, rudbekia flowers , dhalia leaves, onion skins and blackberries from last year. I have learnt new terminology as well , for example ” fugitive” which means that the dyes don’t last and fade with time or in sunlight. This is mostly the case with dyes made from things that you can eat.
I just love the soft shades, and really look forward to developing this skill. I am also planning on planting a dye garden this year – my love of gardening, crafting and sewing all in one – Perfect 😉