I choose natural dyes because they are beautiful.What is art if it is not beauty? It is to fill our lives with joy. The process is very pleasant I love the smell of each dyestuff.I love the emergence of colour from the dye vat.Natural dyes are ecological sound for the planet and all natural fibres can be colours of the rainbow.
I also point out that all colours before 1856 have been dyed with natural dyes.Any time you go into a museum and see a textile dyed before that date you will know that all its colours have been naturally dyed.Louis X1Vsilks, Renaissance velvets, Chinese Imperial robes, Coptic fragments, the Bayeaux tapestry, Peruvian weavings, the Unicorn tapestries, ALL NATURALLY DYED all still beautiful.
William Morris said “all degradation of art veils itself in the assemblance of an intellectual advance” and nothing is truer than this with regard to natural dyeing, let us ignore the colours made for us by commerce and chemists.The way to beauty is not an easy road, every piece of craft work should be an adventure.
As textile artists we can choose to use these same traditional dye techniques to produce endearing textile treasures.Natural dyes seem poised to leap from craft arena into main stream fashion. Theres surely a green future ahead for natural dyes and pigments of all hues.If only we could get world leaders to gather round a dye pot they might discover a gentle and colourful route to peace.
One of my products is naturally dyed embroidery yarns but I also undertake commissions usually for historical reconstruction.
The natural dyes used
Natural dyes made chiefly from plants as used until the 19th century, as they produce attractive harmonious shades and have good fastness characteristics. These dyes from plants and other natural materials have been used for over 5000 years.
I use Indigo and Woad for blues.
Madder , Cochineal , Logwood and Brazilwood for pinks, reds, oranges, and purples.
Weld and Fustic chips for yellows.
Oak bark, Onion skins and Crutch for browns.
Oak galls and Walnut husks for greys and blacks.
As each batch is individually dyed , customers are advised to but sufficient for their projects.
I do use Earth Hues products
My dyeing process
The dyeing process involves first washing the hanks of wool and then mordanting them usually in lots of 500 to 1000 grams.
Most but not all dyes will need a mordant such as alum to enable the plant dye to adhere to the yarn.
The yarn is then dyed by immersion in the prepared liquor and then washed again and dried.
The skeins are then wound by hand and labelled,
Projects that have used my wool
Conservation work at Jorvik Viking Museum, York Minister, National Maritine Museum, National Trust and of course embroiderers doing their own projects.
For more detail see my article on Natural Dyeing at www.textilearts.net/tutors along with others on Creative Textile Art.