I’ve been really itching to write a blog post about a creative process that I’ve totally fallen in love with; eco dyeing, or dyeing with plants and flowers etc. I first discovered Eco dyeing when I stumbled upon Rebecca Desnos’ Instagram page (creator of Plants are Magic, @rebeccadesnos), and saw all the beautiful colours she could produce just by slowly extracting colour out of plants. Nettles could make a bluey-green, acorns a warm brown, and most amazing of all avacados a soft blush pink. I was bitten by the bug and wanted to give it a go myself and experimented with some plain white babygrows and a bag of foraged nettles, the only problem was I didn’t mordant my fabric and was left with a very soft, barely there muddy green – not quite the dusky greyish green I was hoping for. However, once I learnt how to treat my fabric properly, the clothing came out beautifully.
Now the process of eco dyeing is really quite simple once you learn the basics – but to keep this post easy to read and relatively short, I’m going to break it down into chunks. So first step: the mordant.
Now a mordant acts as a fixative, binding the dye to the fabric helping it with colour fastness (how resistant the dyed fabric is to fading) – so if a fabric your wanting to dye with plants has not been treated it’s likely to not stick to the textile, and fade quicker. If a fabric has been treated it’ll give a brighter much clearer colour and is a lot less likely to fade. There are all sorts of ways you can mordant fabric, mainly using alum or iron, but the method I have learnt is using soya milk.
(All credit goes to Rebecca Desnos for her soya mordant method)
How to Mordant your Fabric
1. Using a large plastic tub/bucket or a deep pan pour 1 cup of soya milk (I just use Aldis original soy milk, you can make your own) into the bottom and dilute it out with a lot of water, there’s no real ratios, but enough water to cover the pieces you intend to dye and a bit more to allow the fabric to move around freely.
2. Place your fabric into the diluted milk and stir it round until the pieces are completely saturated.
3. Now it just needs to be left in the mixture for a while, you could leave it in there overnight, or sometimes I’ve just allowed it half a day – as long as it’s a substantial amount of time. The beauty of eco dyeing is that there’s no strict instruction, it’s a very fluid creative process, and results can vary every time, so experiment!
4. Take your pieces out of the mordant and squeeze out any excess, you then want to spin it in your washing machine to expel any more liquid. Then place it somewhere to dry fully.
5. You then want to repeat steps 2, 3 and 4 twice more.
6. Once fully dry your fabric is ready to be dyed.
In part 2 I will be showing you how to get vibrant colours, cool tye dye patterns and a list of plants and flowers to try yourself. I hope you enjoyed this weeks post, if you are already a keen dyer or can’t wait to try it don’t hesitate to share in the comments!