Thursday, 25 February 2016

Studies in Natural Dyeing..

“You carry Mother Earth within you. She is not outside of you. Mother Earth is not just your environment. In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth” - Thích Nhất Hạnh

Over the past six months I've been sharing my studies in natural dyeing over on Instagram and I've just realised I haven't shared much about my process over here.  So I thought I might share a little bit about my natural dyeing adventures and where this beautiful slow art  is taking me next.

I first came to natural dyeing back in 2012 when I was studying textiles at Unversity. India Flint’s work was immediately inspiring and I fell in love with the idea of being able to harvest colour from plants, particularly eucalyptus. Unfortunately in that moment I had neither the time nor the patience to really understand the true beauty of the process .  I’ve always been one to experiment first and read later and I probably didn’t get the most out of my short experience because I was missing some of the practical basics.  And because I didn’t get outstanding results the first time, I shelved my experimenting and then life happened and I didn’t think about it much again until in the last few years, the beautiful artists Belinda and Ellie reignited my desire to try again.  

This time armed with a little more information and the simple knowledge that natural dyes take more easily to animal fibres like wool and silk, I set about a gentle study, just as Spring began last year.  I wandered the neighbourhood, searched for plants to try, made up tiny samples and all of a sudden, I was capturing colour in cloth.  And in that process, I was also transforming myself.  

I began to have this conversation with the trees, asking questions, noticing leaf shapes, running my hands along the branches, finding inspiration wherever I went.  I was no longer just observing my environment, I was becoming a part of it. I was encountering this intimate connection with my landscape and translating it into colour.  For the first time in my life, I felt grounded, I felt this sense of inter-being.  

The natural dyeing process is slow and simple, gather your plant matter then add to a large designated stainless steel pot, cover with water and bring to the boil, then simmer for about an hour or so.  Remove the plant materials and add in pre soaked yarn and fabrics.  Simmer until desired colour is achieved. Leave to cool (overnight is best) and then check out the results.  This of course is a very simplified version of natural dyeing but one I use most often.  There are many, many books you can read about the specifics, different techniques and using mordants and I’ll list a few at the bottom of the post.  For me though, once I had worked out the very basics, I felt like I had the world at my feet, quite literally.  Before beginning I was so intimidated by the whole process, worrying I would make a mistake and being too caught up in the finished colour rather than enjoying journey. When I let all those preconceived ideas go, magic started to happen.

Little by little my collection of colours grew. Throughout this season I’ve been particularly drawn to capturing the colours of the local landscape. Desert reds, river gum greens, and sunset yellows have inspired me to take my yarns and gently work them into a series of tactile stories, wall hangings that tell the tales of this ancient land.  I’m looking forward to creating a series of these pieces and also working on a collection of silk scarves for Wilde Asher.

I called my experiments in natural dyeing a study, because I wanted to allow myself the opportunity to try things without having an agenda or an end result in mind. In doing so, I’ve realised for the first time ever in my vocation as a creative practitioner, I’ve given my soul the chance to just play, to revel in the process, to unravel and let the magic and stories of Mother Earth nurture my artistic journey.  And this process has been truly life changing.

Much Love & Light

India Flint
Ellie Beck
Belinda Evans
My Natrual Dyeing Pinterest board


  1. I've been really interested in your dyeing play over on instagram, seeing what colours you can achieve out of different materials. Hand-dyed thread especially, with fabric and yarn less so, have held a fascination for me for a long time. I think it's the uniqueness that really speaks to me. Natural plant dyes are my favourite as they tend to be softer coloured and reflect the natural environment. Unfortunately, there's no way that I could find the time to do any dyeing myself, but, when funds allow, I do like to acquire other's work to use in my own.
    I'm looking forward to seeing more of your work and thanks for sharing your journey 💜

  2. What a beautiful colour palette, so soft and gentle. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your personal journey in to natural dyeing, your insights and reflections. Such sound advice that it really is the journey and not the end results. Your dyeing results and reuse in to beautiful craft is truly magical. You are such a thoughtful person, thank you kindly for sharing. It was a nice surprise to see me and my friend in Belinda's photos at the Craft Sessions!

  4. I've been away and just got to read this post now thanks for sharing I'm about to begin I've done the research bought a couple of books and created a working space. I too felt nervous and self doubt but your post has spurred me on to being more curious than scared. ☺


Thank you for stopping by! ~ I just love receiving your comments! I'll be sure to pop by your place too. Much love ~ Sophie x