Thursday, August 20, 2009

Natural Dyeing

I have been experimenting with dyeing my own yarn. I checked these books out of the library to learn about more traditional (i.e. non-Kool-Aid) dyeing methods.

Natural Dyeing by Jackie Crook.

Of the sources of natural dye described in this book, I am certainly intrigued by:
  • Rhubarb (yellow, yellow green to copper colors)
  • Tea (browns, the mordants do not vary the color as much here)
  • Stinging nettle (yellow, orange and brown - no way would I go and collect this myself!)
  • red cabbage (blue green - pink)
  • The notion of using things found in the kitchen (red cabbage for light blues, avocado skin for browns and onion for yellows) is very exciting!
Natural Dyeing contains vibrant illustrations and step by step instructions for each of the dying projects. For each of the 31 dyes described, wool treated with each mordant type are shown, which gives a beginner like me a sense on how much you can vary color with different salts. There is a color chart index, listing all of the colors shown in the book. The instructions are clear for describing how to optimize dye uptake with different fibers.

I have better access to Kool-Aid and food coloring than roots and flowers. I certainly have access to chemicals (not that I'd take them from lab!), and I understand hazardous waste procedure. The biggest downside to using these inorganic mordants is the need to have separate dying materials. I think that I will wait to try something like this until I have more than a small apartment, with space to store craft-type items that could be confused for cookware.

Would I add this book to my personal collection? No (I am sure that there are many natural dying recipes on the internet), but it was worth the read!

A Dyer's Garden: From Plant to Pot: Growing Dyes for Natural Fibers by Rita Buchanan
This book starts out describing how to plan your garden so you can have materials to dye with. (A helpful hint, try to focus on plants that give good reds or blues since most plants that you'd find will provide yellow/orange colors.) There are even some suggestions on how to arrange plants in the flower bed, and how many plants you need to yield a certain amount of dye.

The previous book had more detailed photos about the dyeing process. This book has a description, but no vibrant photos.

The most fantastic portion of this book is the dyeing section. On the book edge, there are colors of different mordants on different fibers, so you can flip through the book to find a color you like, and then look and see what the dye is. This organization is very useful.

Overall, this booklet's organization is more practical than flashy, and would be a good resource for someone who wants to practice natural dyeing, not just learn a little bit about it.