At the beginning of each month I open up a question and answer over on Instagram, answering your most common plant dyeing questions.
How do you make subtle shades like light pink and light grey when you dye?
To make subtle shades I find that it is best to make the dye as usual and then just leave the fabric in the dye for a shorter amount of time. This method works better than simply making a weaker dye, which might not last as well on the fabric. Sometimes, when I dye with avocado stones the fabric only needs to be in the dye for 5 minutes before its dyed a lovely pale pink colour. You may find with some plant dyes than no matter how long the fabric is left in the dye pot for, it will only dye a pale shade anyway.
How important are precise formulas and ratios in natural dyeing?
To be honest, unless you are working with powdered dye extract then I don't see any point is being too precise, as the results can vary so much any way due to a number of factors such as water temperature, the age of the plant or the soil that the plant is grown in. You are better if keeping a record of your plant dyeing experiments and keeping a little sample of the dyed fabric along with some notes as to how you achieved the colour.
I'm trying solar dyeing - what plant can I use to make green?
Stinging nettles or goldenrod (just before the flowers have opened) give good greens.
Do you use other mordants like vinegar?
Nope! I just keep it really simple and stick to soya milk. Sometimes I use my homemade iron water (rusty nails and a bit of vinegar left in water for a few weeks) to darken/change the colour of the fabric once it's been dyed.
I would really love to dye some of my weaving wool but it arrives with spinning oil on it. Any tips?
You will need to scour the wool before mordanting and dyeing it to remove the oil otherwise the oil will stop it from absorbing the dye evenly.
For botanical prints on fabric - do you recommend steaming or submersion?
I always make sure that the fabric is damp before I place the plants on it, then wrap it up tightly and then steam it. This method seems to get me the most clearest prints.