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 manage your day? Are all your days the same? Do you have time off?
I try to only work Monday to Friday and I get up early to work so that I can be finished by mid afternoon. I dedicate each day to a different type of work, e.g. Monday and Wednesday are writing days, Thursday is a dyeing/making day.
What is your favourite plant to dye with?
Buddleia! It makes a wonderful yellow colour and I am just so amazed that the lovely purple flowers make a yellow dye.
How do you recommend getting greens and blues as they are the ones I have found most challenging to create?
These are the most tricky colours to get from plants. Chlorophyll makes a lovely green as do nettles and cabbage can make a blue shade. Have a think about the colour wheel and what colours you can dye over each other to make different colours.
How many times do you like to test a dye recipe before deeming it perfect, or is it an ever-evolving process for you each time you make a new dye pot?
I normally test a recipe twice to make sure that the first time wasn’t a fluke, but before that it might take several attempts to get the colour that I was aiming for, as so many factors can alter a colour.
What pieces of advice would you give to someone who is very new to plant dying? I'm very interested in trying it myself. I love how it is environment friendly and the colors are absolutely gorgeous.
Do lots of research, reading and experimenting and find a method that you are comfortable with, as us plant dyers all have our own ways of doing things - none of which are ‘the’ way to do things. Keep a dye notebook and record all of your results and colour swatches down as its really easy to forget how you made a colour.
What fabric would you recommend when starting out with plant dyes?
Plant/animal based fibres take up plant dyes best, so use one of those. I would recommend something like a medium-weight woven linen or cotton that is easy to sew with and doesn’t fray too much, as that way you van make something lovely out of your plant dyed experiments.
Just wondering if I can keep dye in a jar for a few days, or a week, after it has been extracted? Or will this make it weaker when wanting to eventually dye fabric.
Its absolutely fine to keep plant dyes stored in glass jars - it doesn’t make it weaker at all. Just keep it out of direct heat/light and make sure that the jar is really clean before you fill it up and regularly check the jar for mould. If it does grow mould you can carefully spoon it off the top.
Can I cut fresh stinging nettles now and store them away in a brown bag for dyeing in 2-3 weeks?
In my experience stinging nettles produce the best colour when they are used fresh rather than dried, but what you can do it pop them in a bag in the freezer to store them. You can put them straight in the dye pot when you are ready to use them - no need to defrost first.
Any advice for printing with natural dyes?
I used guar gum and mix it with the dye to make a paste. Takes a bit of trial and error but it works a treat once you get the consistency right.
Do you use a fixative mixture with salt and vinegar?
The only thing I use is soya milk - which I pre treat my fabric with prior to dyeing and it works well for me.