the world of natural dyes

i have had a kit of natural dyes taunting me from my pile of misfit crafts.  every now and then i would pull out the instruction sheet and assess the time investment, which was always just a little too much… this wasn’t your microwave dinner kinda project.  especially, with two little munchkins nipping at my feet and a list of projects growing like a weed in my mind, the desire to dye needed to be accompanied by the necessity to dye.  then i bought 10 meters of natural silk chiffon…

oh! why did i hesitate so long?  the experience of dying cloth with bark, bugs, flowers & leaves is profound… a miracle!  yes, there is a time investment, but it is a hands on, rule breaking, feel-like-a-5-year-old kind of investment.  investing in wonder is invaluable.

i began the process by soaking some logwood chips over night.  by morning the liquid surrounding the chips had taken an orange hue, but, admitably, i was lacklustre about the results.  that evening i unravelled my alum-soaked chiffon (alum is a salt that allows the dye to permanently adhere to the cloth) and added it to the logwood infused water.  it did what i expected it to, it turned that hue of browny murky orange… but then before my eyes the chiffon blossomed into the most miraculous shade of purple!

you should have seen my face while i was taking this picture… i was gleeful!  squealing to my husband in the other room to share in my discovery!

i couldn’t stop there!  i needed to see what the dried cochineal bugs would produce… would it really make such a rich fuchsia?

yes! oh wonderful day!  and a new habit solidified… darn it, now i’m never going to buy commercially dyed cloth again – and i only say darn it because i have so little time as it is with work & two little girls. even now my garden is being adorned with native plants known for their dying ability… chamomile (yellow), madder root (salmon), queen anne’s lace (green)… i must learn more!

have you ever dyed cloth naturally?  can you relate to my excitement?!  do you know of any other plants that produce dye?

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