I have been continuing to work with natural dyes this year, building on what I learned in late 2020.
A lot of these dyes have been used on raffia for my basketry, but I have also been trying to keep track of my results on some quiltmakers cotton, so that I can, over time, get enough pieces to make a dyers quilt.
The dyeing season didn’t really kick off for me until April/May, as the growing season is a little late to get going here.
Yellows proved to be plentiful, with dandelion, ribbed plantain stems and later on dock stems.
As the year continued, I began to feel like I would never make any green. So far the nearest I had come, was a gold colour with a hint of green, from my daffodils.
I needn’t have worried though, patience was all that was needed. Cow parsley brought me my first green, a light, fresh, spring green, so perfect for its season. Then in summer, came the surprise of a gorgeous blue/green sage colour, from my bountiful crop of fuchsia blooms.
Our wonderful fuchsia hedge kept on giving, even as the blooms faded and disappeared. I decided to try making dye with the large amount of seed pods that were left behind and was rewarded with another lovely, although entirely different green.
After my success with crowberries last year, I was eagerly awaiting the beginning of autumn, so that I could make some more gorgeous purples.
We started keeping an eye open for them in August and I was quickly rewarded with my first handful. However, a combination of a large population of hungry birds and the distraction of selling our house, meant that we only found a few more.
I was determined not to waste these tannin rich beauties, so after leaving some raffia in a pan of blackberry dye overnight, I added the crowberries, heated gently and pressed the whole lot down to burst the berries.
The resulting raffia was a delight and there was just enough to make one basket.
I also had just enough left to soak a small piece of fabric which I had stitched and gathered, so that I could have some patterned pieces for my quilt.
The patterned pieces got me thinking and I decided to make an eco-bundle with some of my quilters cotton, using up some of the last of summer’s flowers and just a few crowberries that I had left.
I have tried this process with paper before, but never with fabric and I was really pleased with the results.
The raffia which bound the bundle together, left an unexpected and particularly nice effect. They are the perfect addition to my quilt.
If you fancy trying this for yourself, it’s really very simple. I had already treated my fabric with a soya milk mordant, so I only had to put on the flowers and berries and roll the whole thing up in a tight bundle. The tighter the better!
Then I put it in a pan (one that I only use for dyes), and let it gently simmer for around 40 mins. At that point I switched off the heat and left the bundle in the water overnight.
I am no expert in this process, but I assumed that it was important to let the bundle dry for a while before unwrapping it. After leaving for a further day, I decided the time had come to see the results.
There is unlikely to be any more dyeing sessions for me this year, as we are moving house in two weeks time and will be staying in temporary accommodation until we find our new home.
Hopefully I have enough coloured raffia to put me on until we get settled again and I can set up my dyeing room properly.
There are so many new things to try in 2022 – I can’t wait!