12 October 2012

Natural Dyeing: Ochre From Green

cotton dyed with helenium flowers and purple loosestrife leaves

I like to dabble in natural dyeing; that is, trying to dye fabric with colours derived from plants.

To make things even harder for myself I use cotton material. It would be easier to use wool because the colour chemicals bind better to protein than the cellulose of cotton, but I prefer to sew rather than to knit, so if anything is going to be made from the colour experiments it has to be sewable.

This quilted wall hanging thingy was made using all sorts of leaves from the local park.

wall hanging made from bundled natural dyes

Recently I read you can get a colour from helenium flowers and purple loosestrife - two plants that fortuitously grow in Garden65, so of course I had to have a go.

Helenium flowers simmering in pot

First the plants are simmered for half an hour or so, then they are strained out and the fabric put in the 'dye bath' and again simmered for half an hour or more.

purple loosestrife dye bath
Purple loosetrife leaves being strained out. Notice colour of water.

You would think the yellow flowers would create the better colour, but I was blown away by the deep ochre colour the plain green leaves of loosestrife produced.

Helenium flowers on left / Purple Loosestrife on right

The queen of natural dyeing is India Flint. Have a butcher's at her site to see how it should really be done.