author. Bethan Taylor


Natural Dye Workshop: Extracting the colour from local plants.

Have you ever wanted to dye clothes naturally but been unsure as to how you would go about this? Well after attending the high-demand workshop myself I am ready to give you a step-by-step guide...

Botanical Inks, who ran this enjoyable workshop, wanted to prove that this sort of craft is easy and demystify the amount of skill that this takes. 

First of all, you need your colour. To do this you must take your desired natural colourant, and put it in a jar with some water for a good few weeks, or until the water is a colour you are happy with. Make sure there is quite a lot of it. Rain water works best here, because the chemicals in tap water can affect the colour. My personal favourite colourant was avocado rinds, which brought out a gorgeous pinky colour. Other options include nettles, onion skin, different types of bark, dock roots or leaves. Feel free to get on with something else whilst the colours run into the water, like dreaming of the beautifully coloured clothes you will soon own.

With baited breath, you can finally get onto the second stage of naturally colouring your clothes.  Put the water from the jar into a pan and slowly bring it to a simmer. Be careful not to bring this water to the boil at any point because this will damage your new clothes and you'll have to start all again... If you want to experiment a little bit, you can add a bit of white vinegar or baking soda to create a different shade again.

For the fabric you can use, it's highly recommended that you use entirely natural fabric. Silk or wool are both completely acceptable options, as they take the colour of the water beautifully. The point you add the fabric depends on the type of fabric you use, but either way you should wet this fabric in warm water first of all. If you're using animal fibres, then add this to the water before you heat it up. Otherwise it won't fit anymore, which is great for anyone smaller than you that you may know but kind of annoying for you. Any other natural fabric can be added as the water is simmering. Make sure the fabric remains submerged in the water, but don't let it stick to the bottom of the pan either. This is easiest done by stirring rather than just hoping for the best. 

Leave this water to simmer for 3 hours or so, and voila! At this point the heat can be turned off and the fabric left overnight for a stronger colour again, or you can use the piece you already have. With your damp but beautiful fabric, you then wash it off in rain water and ph neutral soap, and then clear water. You then iron the fabric, which may fade a little but don't worry too much! Feel free to add the fabric back to the water and repeat this last step again, as this treats the fabric and so the colour lasts longer. 

And then you boldly wear your new creation in the streets, and tell everyone how you actually dyed it yourself and doesn't an avocado rind create an interesting dusty pink, and of course you can show them how. It's not as hard as they say.