Why I started plant dyeing (it may surprise you!)

I moved home a few weeks ago and have been organising lots of fairly urgent house renovations.

What do home decorating and natural dyeing have in common?

Well, quite a lot, if you ask me.

Have I ever told you why I began dyeing with plants?

It's actually because I wanted to create my own non toxic, healthy fabrics.

This is the focus of the dye books I've written and why I started using soya milk as a pretreatment on fabric. I stopped using aluminium acetate after my first baby was born over 8 years ago. I share this in my first book Botanical Colour at your Fingertips.


My love of colour began as a teenager when I dyed clothing with sachets of dye that you add to the washing machine (did you use those too?!). Later, I would buy secondhand men's shirts and transform them into dresses and skirts. Around this time I became interested in the composition of fabric and ingredients in cleaning and skincare products.

At one point in my 20s, I felt ill for a few weeks after having a coat dry cleaned and wearing it daily, but this kind of thing just wasn't talked about back then.

The pivotal moment was around 10 years ago when I read a book called Killer Clothes.

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In Killer Clothes (affiliate link) I learnt how seemingly innocent materials can endanger our health. It connected a lot of dots and was a big wake-up moment for me. However we won't focus on the details now, as we don't really need anymore anxiety in the world right now, do we?! When you're ready for it, it's a fascinating read.

My take-away point was that I wanted to make my own healthy clothing and fabric.

Plant dyes seemed like the perfect choice and I'd been meaning to experiment with them for years.


So, what do home decorating and natural dyes have in common?

House renovations can be tricky to navigate, as many products and materials are toxic. One easy switch is paint; non toxic, VOC-free paint is now readily available. My favourite UK paint company is Lakeland.

Back to natural dyes: my aim has always been to create healthy fabric using safe ingredients. Along the way, I've fallen in love with the rainbow of colours.

If you've been thinking of trying botanical dyeing, then my books will guide you in a very simple, gentle way. Botanical Colour at your Fingertips is the best one to begin with.

And how about you -- why did you start natural dyeing? Or other crafts that you enjoy?