Natural and Local Dyeing


The recent WAFTA ( workshop given by Jane Flower ( revitalised my interest in dyeing with locally available plants.  I was lucky enough to be the facilitator for the workshop (not participating, just helping) and to have Jane stay with me.

One of the things Jane hammered home to us was safely.  The importance of good ventilation was key.

Anther principle was to experiment.  Don’t expect your tutor to have all the answers or to give them to you wrapped in a bow!  You have to experiment yourself to truly learn.

A third “pronouncement” was to pay attention to the advice of India Flint in her book Eco Colour.  According to Jane, if you really read it, everything is there for you.

So, armed with turmeric root from my local market, purple carrots and red cabbage from another greengrocer close to me, and other stuff, including kangaroo paw roots that no longer produce leaves in my own garden, I got stuck in to another round of boiling up.

I am lucky to have a few metres of various types, weights and weaves of silk fabric I bought in India earlier this year. I also have an old pink wool blanket.

My basic dye pot was tap water and avocado skins. Initially, bundles of silk and plant material were simmered for two hours in this.  Then I boosted the pH with some soda ash and ran more bundles through.The fabrics were otherwise not mordanted.


Wool blanket wrapped in kangaroo paw roots and tuber, turmeric root and purple carrot.


Silk bundled with purple carrot, and kangaroo tuber and roots


Murraya leaves clamped in silk and boiled in an avocado skin dye bath.

India Flint’s book is repaying my closer reading.  I am now going to explore some of the more prosaic plants in the garden. More importantly, I have found that boiling in pots of avocado skins with iron thrown in can be very deleterious to old wool blanket material. Post edit 27/9: India Flint points out that a ph greater than 8 is very harmful to wool.  The handful of soda ash I threw into the avocado skin pot will undoubtedly have made the pH way higher than 8 (after all, neutral is a pH of 7!)

My next blog will be about whether steaming might be a better way to treat wool.  It might even be a better way to get colour out of garden herbs!

This entry was posted in kangaroo paw as dye, Natural dyeing, purple carrots as dyes, Turmeric as dye. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Natural and Local Dyeing

  1. Julie Devereux says:

    Great results Margaret. Yes my old blankets are very fragile! Interesting!

  2. Louise says:

    Beautiful pieces, lovely colour

  3. lizarnold28 says:

    Gorgeous pieces Margaret. I love the marks made by the Kangaroo Paw tubers/roots as they are so well defined.

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