Dyeing for a cuppa

When I was given birthday money as a kid or a teenager, I used to agonise over it. It wasn’t a problem of what to buy but precisely which item in my mental list of ‘I want it, I want it, I want’ came first. This year it wasn’t really a problem.

I bought myself a copy of India Flint’s ‘Eco Colour: beautiful dyes for beautiful textiles’. It’s all about dyeing using natural material and with minimal environmental impact. Hugely informative, practical and with so many photographs of her work as examples of different dyes and techniques. But the best thing by far is that she writes about Australian plants.


So I was able to walk out to the garden, snip a few samples from shrubs and trees and try out her ‘dye tea’ technique. Boil water, place a small amount of material in the cup and cover with water. After ten minutes, the tint of the water will give you a reliable indication of the dye colour.

What I had forgotten is that for flowers, India recommends freezing them first then immersing them in lukewarm water to gain a dye solution. So most of the flowers didn’t really show anything except for the banksia (top left). After I remembered to consult the book, I found that the banksia seems to be the only flower that is used in a hot extraction process.

I like the techniques – bundling flower or leaf material and then using cold water or steaming to extract colour directly to the textile; multiple extractions or either the dye stuff or fabric to give different shades and tones; shibori using clips, tin cans and all sorts of other stuff; the advice on alternative mordants.

So, there’s a storm brewing outside and afterwards I’ll be out there gathering windfall for dyeing. It makes me feel a little bit witchy.

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2 Comments

  1. The Bloke said,

    February 15, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Makes going into the kitchen a bit risky, too: never know what I’ll find in my cup of tea.

  2. froginthepond said,

    February 15, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Oh, it’s not what you can see that’ll do you in; it’s what you can’t see in your cuppa!!

    Maybe I shouldn’t have said that aloud….


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