Why I started plant dyeing


I frequently get asked how I started plant dyeing and why I started Botanical Threads. And although it feels a little self indulgent to be writing a while blog post about myself and my business, I hope that my journey to where I am today helps you and inspires you to take those initial first few scary steps to be where you want to be.

After I finished my degree in Fashion Design I knew pretty much straight away that I wanted to work for myself, although I was unsure of exactly what it was that I wanted to do or sell. I spent a rollercoaster 8 or so years trying out lots of different business ideas and learnt a lot along the way. I  studied trading the stock market (but never actually traded), tried selling my illustrations, taught myself corsetry and had a great year making luxury corsets for clients, had a lovely time working in a lingerie shop and helping them with their in-house designs, worked a number of dead end retail and receptionist jobs, was a freelance machinist for several companies and by the start of 2016 I was absolutely knackered a needed a change.

Throughout all of the hopping between different jobs and business ideas I got married, bought a house and was spending a lot of time growing things in the garden. When a gardener job became available in my local National Trust property I did the only logical thing that someone with no professional gardening experience would do (sense the sarcasm here) - I quit my job and applied for the gardening position. To my absolute surprise I got the job and a few weeks later I was happily working outdoors in a beautiful garden.

During my time working in the garden I was reading a lot of horticulture books and in one book I came across a chapter on dyeing with plants - a concept that was entirely new to me at the time - and after a few months doing lots of plant dye experiments I set up Botanical Threads in my spare time. I loved the idea that I would create something beautiful from plants, without the use of chemicals and without causing harm to the environment.

About a year after I started Botanical Threads I began to have hopes of making it my full time job. I'd found something that magically combined my love of plants and the outdoors with sewing and making things. I set myself the goal of earning the same amount each month that I did from gardening before I quite my job and took Botanical Threads full time, but soon realised that in order to make the amount of money that I wanted I needed more time...and that would mean quitting my gardening job. A very scary prospect!

Luckily, the stars aligned and I found out that I was pregnant just as my gardening contract was coming to an end, so instead of reapplying I decided to leave and concentrate all my efforts on Botanical Threads (and growing a tiny human).

Since taking Botanical Threads full time the business has changed quite a lot. Where I initially started out by selling small items much as plant dyed scarves and tea towels, I've moved on to making and selling higher value pieces like my patchwork cushions and quilts that take my much longer to make but as I make less of them it means that I am not stuck to my sewing machine all day every day. It's still really important to me to be able to have enough time to get outside in the countryside and explore, picking up new plants to experiment with.  I've also become very passionate about teaching people. After being approached by Mollie Makes magazine I wrote several tutorials for them and this really sparked off my passion for teaching people about plant dyes. Nowadays most of my business is focussed on teaching people, via my ebooks and my monthly Q&A sessions on Instagram. 

So that's the journey to why I started plant dyeing, in a nutshell. I hope it's helped you to understand that even if you are a little lost with your business (or want a business but just aren't too sure on the idea yet) that you will eventually find what's right for you.


alicia hall