Botanical Alchemy: Exploring the endlessly variable world of plant colour
“Dyeing with plants is a kind of botanical alchemy, a process that gives beautiful and sometimes surprising results. It is also a gentle and ecologically sustainable alternative to synthetic dyes, which are often harmful in themselves and in the processes used for their manufacture. Literally every plant has some potential for dyeing cloth.” – Eco Colour, India Flint
I wanted a new pillow for my bed that represented natural, was cheap but still showed effective design. I got some left over material and stuffing, some beetroot tins out of the cupboard and bang, a few steps and theres a new pillow that ticks all my the boxes! This is the photo step by step process of my environmentally friendly bolster pillow!
DIY Beetroot Dyed Pillowcase Photo Step by Step Process
1. You will need: 2 tins of Beetroot (Or fresh beetroot) – 1 tbsp Vinegar – String or Rubber Bands – Calico (Enough for the size of pillow you want)
2. Cut as many 10cm pieces of string (or rubber bands) you want, depending on how tie dyed you would like your pillow to look. Bunch up the calico fabric and tie the string around it. Make sure you vary the sizes of them.
3. In a big pot, add the beetroot juice from the two tins with the tbsp of vinegar. Put the pot on the stove on low.
4. Put the tied calico into the pot and bring to the boil for 5 minutes. With a wooden spoon, make sure the entire surface of the material has been covered by the juice.
5. Allow to infuse for approximately an hour. *Don’t forget about it on the stove (like I did!) because it will begin to caramelise!
6. Squeeze it out and take off the strings.
7. Hang it up on the washing line to try out completely.
Did you know that the World Bank estimates 17 to 20% of industrial water pollution comes from textiles dying and treatment?
8. To ensure that the dye stays in the fabric, iron it extremely well. Be careful not to burn so you may need to iron over the top of something else. *Due to mine slightly caramelising, I had to rinse mine with water so the colour faded but it is still all natural and gave it a unique look.
9. I wanted a bolster pillow but you can make any shape you want by sewing the edges together, leaving a slot to put your stuffing in.
10. Once the pillow has been completely stuffed, sew the opening shut and you have a completely natural, homemade pillow to be proud of. I know I was!
Modern life surrounds us with a constant cocktail of toxins. They are in the food we eat, the cosmetics we apply, the household cleaning agents we use. The upholstery in our cars, home and offices gives them off, by building materials and even by our clothes. Synthetic textiles and synthetic dyes are silent contributors to ill health. Many commercially dyed textiles still shed colour after many rinses. Even so called natural dyes that have been fixed or enhanced with toxic mordants will inevitably disperse unattached molecules of indeterminate matter.
You can use anything – the scope is endless.
Ideas (Never ending): Foliage – Berries – Leaves – Bark – Roots – Flowers – Fruit – Sap – Logwood – Elderberry – Australian Indigo – Red Maple – Fungus – Celery – Spices – Vegetables – Coconut – Eucalyptus – Ginkgo – Ivy – Fennel – Manuka – Wallflower – Guava – Dandelion – Nettle – Chamomile – Wormwood – Jackfruit – Pawpaw – Tumeric – False Hemp – Gardenia – Tiger Lily – Pomegranate – Sumac – Jerusalem Artichoke – Birch – White Oak
*Information Reference & Recommendation: Eco Colour : Environmentally Sustainable Dyes, by internationally renowned dyer, costumier and artist India Flint, draws on her two decades of experience and experimentation in natural dyeing techniques to present an expert, highly accessible and achievable handbook of ecologically sustainable plant dye methods using renewable resources, most of which can be found in the average home garden.
Re-use, re-invent, re-cycle – everything can be repurposed.
[The Green Compass - Let it grow]
*Disclaimer: All photographs in a bLANk’s ‘The Green Compass’ are taken by bLANk and rightly owned by bLANk