A Guide to Backyard Dyeing

Have fun exploring the art of natural dyeing at home. Lara has selected Eucalyptus microcorys leaves and purple carrot to experiment with, as these produce the most unique and unexpected colours…

Eucalyptus microcorys

 Tallowwood is a tree Lara grew up with, but never knew the secrets it held until many years later in her textile journey. There was a huge tree with rough bark in her backyard growing up, and as kids, they had a rope-swing hanging from it, and had countless hours of fun playing high energy games with those branches. It probably fueled her imaginations in ways that she didn’t realise at the time.
 Its leaves can be used as a textile dye for both block dyeing and contact printing. The leaves give off colours varying from a pale yellow to a dark orange/ochre, blacks and greys depending on what different elements you wish to combine for the process.
Dyeing and printing on different fabrics and using different techniques can be lots of fun and doesn’t take many ingredients. Collect an old pot from the op shop as well as an old camp stove and these will be enough to get you started!
For the first experiment, Lara dips some linen scraps in rust water, then bundles some of the leaves around a bush stick. She places the bundle aside. Next, some wool is placed on the table top, some of the Tallowwood leaves onto it, and this is in its turn bundled around a bush stick. The precious bundles are placed together in a pot of hot water to brew.
Meanwhile, leaves were left brewing in a pot for the block dyeing. Lara places whole pieces of linen and wool fabric straight into the pot with the leaves and stirs from time to time over several hours to ensure the colours are evenly dispersed.
To find out more, please refer to India Flints Book Eco Colour!

Purple Carrot

Another easily obtainable ingredient that one can have fun dyeing with at home is the purple carrot. Lara bought a bag of these from the local grocery store, so if you do not grow these in your backyard, they are easily obtainable for all.
The colours produced were just so beautiful, that Lara just had to share them with you… 
First, cut the carrots up in small pieces to enable more dye to be available. Place these into a pot with water, some silk or wool. If you have an old garment that needs a revamp, this can also be the perfect solution. Bring the lot to a high temperature, but little by little, so as not to shock the fabric. Leave for several hours (Lara left hers overnight to soak) and then check for results.
The colours are sure to be stunning.
Lara also pushed the experiment that little further, and noticed one can obtain a colour shift by sprinkling vinegar onto the fabric...
Lara now makes sure to record all her experiments in her creative swatch book, writing down the process used and adding a sample swatch for the colour.
Recording the method such as the one used here for purple carrot is such a valuable step of the natural dyeing process, as one always forgets, no matter how much we believe otherwise at the time... As well as having a historical value, it is also very fun going back on past experiments, and noticing the similarities and the differences.
This is what Lara does on a regular basis to get the amazing colours and prints she obtains.
If you wish to find out more about natural dyeing with native Australian flora, Lara does organise workshops several times a year, so please keep an eye on the Artisanal section of the website for further information.
If you wish to share some of your dyeing experiences or ideas with Lara, please let us know by sending us a message here.
by Chloé Décobert

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