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botanical dyes for beautiful textiles


part one part six

before you begin special effects
‘Natural’ dyes — a context Cold-bundled eco-prints
Collecting plants — a protocol Non-eucalyptus eco-prints using hot bundling
Hapa-zome — beating colour into cloth
Dyeing wool yarn and sliver
part two Multicoloured yarns
the workspace: harvesting, Printing with plant dyes
health, and safety Using shibori techniques and layered dyeing
Equipment and a place to work Resists
Harvesting and storing plants for dyeing Solar dyeing
Mud and cow patties

part three part seven

natural dyestuffs
some other considerations
Some traditional dye materials
The importance of water
The importance of time
Caring for cloth
part four Disposal of wastes
preparing, processing,
and applying dyes
part eight
Preparing to dye
Processing plant dyes Further reading
part five About the author
some special dye-plant groups Acknowledgments
Eucalyptus dyes
Beyond the eucalyptus
Ice-flower dyes
Fruits and berries
Bundle-dyed recycled cotton shirt collage
(crimson stains from Eriococcus insect).
eco colour
preparing to dye

Different plants and plant parts require different treatments on the road
to the dyepot. Think carefully about which approach you will use. For
example, blue and purple flowers, being quite delicate, will often simply
turn brown in a hot solution. Anyone who has ever admired the delightful
dried cornflowers in Lady Grey’s tea blend before pouring on the boiling
water to make the brew will know that the blue colour vanishes in
seconds. So it stands to reason that such things as flowers require a
cooler method.

Blue flowers give the best results when the ice-flower technique (see
page 138) is used. Yellow flowers, on the other hand, seem to respond
quite well to hot processing (see page 106).
Eucalyptus flowers can be simply soaked in water at room temperature
for a couple of days, during which the liquid will absorb most of the colour
from them.
Tough plant parts, such as leathery leaves, barks, and seeds, benefit
from soaking in water overnight before processing. Crushing, grinding, or
macerating to expose as much surface area as possible to the dyebath will
help the extraction of colour.
Consider whether you wish your cloth to be evenly dyed, in which case
you will require a pot that is sufficiently large to allow movement of the fibre
during processing. Should you wish the plant material to make patterns on
the cloth, think about eco-printing instead. If you do use a large pot, plan
to recycle the leftover liquid in another dye-bath.

treating the fibre before dyeing

It is traditional to thoroughly wash or scour all fibres before dyeing.
Certainly scouring greasy wool helps even take-up of colour, but violent
boiling of new cloth to remove factory-added starch seems extreme,
particularly as that starch may actually have helpful mordant properties.

eco colour
eco colour
making an ash

Take a cupful of ash from the

fireplace and mix it with a few cups
of hot water, being careful to avoid
breathing in the dust. Stir well and
pour into a double-cloth strainer
made by lining a plastic colander
with two thicknesses of old sheeting.
Make sure the receiving vessel
is something inert, such as glass,
ceramic, or enamel. This solution
will be quite alkaline, and you will
need to experiment to see just how
much dilution is required for your
ice-flower potion.

Many would-be dyers have applied the traditional boiling methods to

brilliantly coloured flower petals and discovered that the colour in the
petals dissipates with rising temperatures. The method described here
was discovered as a happy accident due to the storage of flowers by
freezing. It works to best advantage on silk.

I had realised some time ago that the only way of getting satisfactory
colour from such plants as violas, delphiniums, iris, pelargoniums, and
petunias was to extract it by squeezing the flower petals in cold water
and then adding small quantities of safe mordants.

ind i a
fli n t
beautiful and eco-friendly
color can be yours!

The essence of plants bursts forth in magnificent

hues and surprising palettes. Using dyes of the
leaves, roots, and flowers to color your cloth and
yarn can be an amazing journey into botanical
alchemy. In Eco Colour, artistic dyer and colorist
India Flint teaches you how to cull and use this
gentle and ecologically sustainable alternative to
synthetic dyes.

India explores the fascinating and infinitely

variable world of plant color using a wide variety
of techniques and recipes. From whole-dyed
cloth and applied color to prints and layered dye
techniques, India describes only ecologically
sustainable plant-dye methods. She uses
renewable resources and shows how to do the
least possible harm to the dyer, the end user of
the object, and the environment. Recipes include
a number of entirely new processes developed by
India, as well as guidelines for plant collection,
directions for the distillation of nontoxic mordants,
and methodologies for applying plant dyes.
Eco Colour inspires both the home dyer and textile India Flint is a designer, artist, writer, and sheep farmer.
Her work has been greatly influenced by her extensive
professional seeking to extend their skills using
travels—from Melbourne to rural Austria to Montreal. She
India’s successful methods. is known for the development of the highly distinctive
eco-print, an ecologically sustainable plant-based printing
process giving brilliant color to cloth. Flint has been working
with plant dyes for more than 20 years, and she has artwork
in myriad collections and museums in Australia, Latvia, and
Germany. She currently lives in South Australia.

Hardcover, 87⁄8 × 105⁄8, 240 pages,

ISBN 978-1-59668-330-3, $40.00
Available September 2010

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