Tuesday, January 15, 2013

alpha & omega... the dye process

It all starts with selecting natural yarns, threads and fabrics to be dyed -
these may be a diverse mix of hemp, linen, cotton, silk, wool, whatever's lying around works.

Then comes the process of mordanting, to enhance the process by which the pigments bind to the fibre.
I use natural solutions often including plant-derived tannins as opposed to heavy-metal based mordants.

The colour extraction from the flowers, roots, barks, leaves, fruits and vegetables is a time-consuming process of steaming, boiling, straining - repeated as the colour desires.
There are various dyeing techniques both hot and cold, lasting from a mere few hours to weeks, depending on the process. Thorough rinsing and drying once the dyeing in complete yields the final, and often surprising colour result.

I record all my dye experiments in a bulging dye-book with fabric samples and notes although future reference is somewhat futile as natural dyeing virtually never yields the same results. Changes in environemntal factors such as the weather, water and soil mean that even if harvested from the same spot two years in a row, the colour a plant yields will almost certainly be different- but therein lies the unpredictable beauty and excitement of botanical dyeing.

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