To make your own plant dyes is pretty easy, if you are the creative type. It’s a great way to start your own cottage industry, whether you would like to sell hand-dyed fabrics or make clothing items to sell on at local markets. You can also use the dyes to colour hand-made papers.
If you are growing plants to make dyes, see make your garden safe for pets to know toxic plants to avoid. Also be aware that some natural food dyes (like cocoa and avocado) are also toxic to pets. If foraging for plants, do this sustainably (without harm to flora or fauna: the first book has info on how to do this).
- Seasonal Plant Dyes takes readers on a seasonal journey through the year, showing how to create environmentally-friendly dyes. Learn how soy milk help dyes stick to fabrics, and how to harvest plants that doesn’t impact the planet. Includes horticultural information.
- Fibershed takes the local food movement over to the fabric industry. Natural dyer Rebecca Burgess looks at how people can make and dye their own local fabrics from hemp and linen (from flax plants), and support regional textile economies.
- Wild Colour is a practical and inspiring book with techniques to dye 65 plants, using environmentally-friendly techniques. Choose the right methods and obtain a range of gorgeous colours from each plant.
- Seasalt Cornwall has a post on making natural plant dyes. Print designer Sophie shows how to make natural dyes from flowers and vegetables including turmeric, avocado skins, beetroots, elderberries, brown onion skins, fennel, carrot tops and artichokes.
Fibershed is the book about the makers for a new textile economy. Began in California, this is about those who are bringing local fabrics back to the artisans, a bit like the local food and flower movements. Natural dyer Rebecca Burgess looks at how people can make and dye their own local fabrics from hemp and linen (from flax plants), and support regional textile economies.
Making clothes with local fabrics, is not always possible. For instance, organic cotton and bamboo does not grow here. And many people prefer not to use wool, because although sheep need shearing (if not, it’s like putting an extra overcoat on each year), they can fall down from the weight of the rain (and die, if no-one turns them over).
Many sheep are sheared too early or use a technique called mulesing, the reasons why say vegans don’t use wool. If you wear wool, then choose companies that don’t use these techniques, and don’t slaughter sheep – The Vegetarian Wool Company is one company that lets sheep live out their natural lives.
But some natural fabrics do grow here, mostly hemp and linen. Hemp is not narcotic and although it needs a license (to ensure it does not turn into cannabis), it’s very eco-friendly and a great fabric for summer or winter clothing, when spun into softer fabric. Linen is from the flax plant, and is also a nice fabric, although it does crumple a bit.