Friday, April 5, 2013

Eco-Dyeing on Holidays

Going on holidays to the Sunshine Coast with Mum?  Lets do some eco-dyeing!  Believe me, its an obvious choice to an enthusiastic artist who can't sit still when relaxing.   I was keen to try a few different dye baths, inspired by a book on natural dyes from the QSWFA library.

Things to think about before packing:
1.  Instruct Mum not to pack too much to allow lots of room in the car for my art stuff.
2.  Is there a lift?  The amount of art equipment I can take depends on whether I have to walk up 4 flights of stairs or not.
3.  Allow plenty of time between walks on the beach and drinking coffee to get art done. I've got my priorities right!
4.  Remember that there are plenty of charity shops, $2 shops and craft supply shops within an easy drive if I leave anything at home.
5.  I'm only going for 5 days, so I can't take every project that I'm currently working on....

Learnings from doing eco-dyeing on holidays:  ITS MESSY!  ITS SMELLY!  Probably wasn't a good idea....   Luckily for me I was able to clean it all up before we vacated the unit.


Firstly, eggplant peelings from my vege garden.  This wasn't successful - obviously I was missing something in my brew, needs more investigation.  Not to worry - I've still gots heaps of eggplant in the garden.

Tumeric and ammonia - didn't produce the expected results and the fumes were really strong.  Not a good idea indoors.

Then I tried red cabbage and copper sulphate.  This produced pleasing results, but the QSWFA book advised that this dye was very fugitive.  And I agree, it faded off as it dried.  However, I am still very pleased with the soft greys that it has produced.

I don't normally work with textiles, but Mum and I had bought some silk scarves using a gift voucher, and I also had some cotton garments I wanted to dye.  I also had a beautiful silk overdress made by my dressmaker Patricia Ingram-Johnson.

The photos below show some of my eco-dyeing results from both my holiday and continued dyeing efforts when I returned home.

The pots during the eco-dyeing process

Silk bundles pulled from the dye-baths,
beautiful objects in themselves.
I used pieces of driftwood and old wooden
salt and pepper shakers to wrap around.

Silk bundle in the process of being unwrapped. 
Can you feel the excitement and anticipation???

I held the silk up to the light before I unwrapped it.
The true beauty is yet to be revealed...

Silk scarves after dyeing.  The bright yellow colour is tumeric.

Detail from the silk scarf dyed by my mother-in-law, Jan.
Mum and I encouraged her to have a go, and I
think she'll be pleased with the result!

Silk overdress, front view.
The colours are perfect - grey/blues, purples, and
 orange leaf prints.

The back of the silk overdress - I concentrated the leaves
around the bottom edge of the dress.
You can also see the purple marks from where I rolled it
when bundling.

An eco-dyed book using Hahnemuhle printmaking paper.
I folded and tore the paper before dyeing
making gorgeous dyeing effects on the torn edges.


  1. I've been fascinated with eco dyeing since I spied india flint's work (oh myyyyyy!) but haven't dipped my toe in the pot yet...... I'm waiting until I finished my present studies before I give myself permission because i suspect I won't be able to drag myself away from the dye pot once I start! -- your first dye pieces are simply stunning!

  2. Yes its certainly addictive! I'm thinking of buying more scarves to have another go at the eggplant dye.