Last week I met up with a friend. She’s done a little bit of plant dyeing over the years and asked how I get my colours so saturated.
These are my top tips that I gave her, and I thought I’d share with you too!
These tips pretty much form the basis of my dyeing philosophy which can be found in my book Botanical Colour at your Fingertips (available as an eBook and paperback).
1. Use less water.
Only use as much water as you need to submerge the plants. If you’re dyeing with things like leaves or onion skins, they will soften up and you can use even less water and push them under the water level later on.
Technically, you could simmer away extra water later on, but some dyes are sensitive to aggressive heat and this can really dull colours. For this reason, I love making concentrated dyes initially! Then the dyes can double up as inks for printing or painting!
2. Make the dye more slowly.
After heating the dye bath, leave the plants soaking in the dye for a day or more. I love to work intuitively and observe how the dye is darkening. I add little strips of fabric into the dye bath to monitor the shade. Many dyes will oxidise and darken over the course of a few hours. Others will gradually shift in colour after a few days and you never quite know what you’ll get.
Time is an important factor when it comes to dyeing fabric too! Sometimes I leave fabric soaking in a dye bath for days. Admittedly, you won’t get even results this way, but if you use a technique like scrunch dyeing, then the reward can be incredible.
Don’t give up too early. Following on from point number 2, allow the plants plenty of time to fully extract into the water. I know how easy it is to feel frustrated, and even now I sometimes have to remind myself to be more patient. The reward of beautiful colours is worth the wait!