Playing as part of my design process

People often wonder why I dye so many small pieces of fabric in different colours and ask what I do with them all. I've actually considered taking up quilting as a hobby on many occasions. The truth is, I simply love dyeing swatches of fabric and lengths of yarn with different plants. Experimenting is all part of my process and I discover lots of new things through this kind of play.

I keep my little squares of dyed fabric in labelled envelopes and enjoy arranging the colours in different combinations to appreciate the subtle nuances. Even the most "boring" colour has different undertones and is beautiful in its own right.

 {colours from alder cones, redwood cones and hawthorn leaves)

Not only is playing with fabric a meditative process, but it also helps me develop new ideas for when I dye larger textiles. Lately I've been dyeing two tone scarves and I use my swatches to dream up ideas before I commit to dyeing longer lengths of fabric. Experimenting helps avoid unexpected surprises or mistakes. Even if the outcome of a plant is slightly different each time, I feel more confident if I've tried it once before on a smaller swatch.

After I've dyed with a new plant I love to compare the colour to all the other swatches in my little library. Plant dyes vary from season to season and also from place to place due to different water and growing conditions of the plants. I always love to dye when I'm away from home to compare the colours of my favourite plants.

 {colours from St John's Wort flowers ~  Hypericum Calycinum}

Perhaps dyeing swatches of fabric is like artists mixing paints and doing colour studies. I get a lot of enjoyment from the colour making process. I've never been drawn to painting very much but I love exploring colour through making plant dyes. In fact I think I enjoy the process of making the colour more than making a final product, such as a scarf. This is what let me to writing my eBook; I just enjoy the process so much.