I’m so excited to finally share these snaps with you, from the mini natural dye workshop that we had round my house last month. It was such a beautiful, inspiring day. Here’s how it all came about!
I have a very dear friend called Rachel, who I met when I first moved to Norwich. Many years ago, she introduced me to one of her lovely friends called Libby, who Rachel went to art college with. Fast forward to May/June of this year, and Libby suddenly popped up on Instagram, with the most beautiful feed full of dried petals and the most incredible fabrics. Whilst studying for her masters in fashion at NUA (Norwich University of the Arts), Libby discovered the technique of naturally dyeing fabrics, using flowers and other natural ingredients. The results are surprisingly vibrant, ranging from ethereal, pale colours, reminiscent of dragonfly wings, to brighter, richer autumnal shades.
Why dye naturally? Synthetic dyes are toxic, and have a harmful impact on the environment, and to us as humans. The fast fashion industry is the second biggest polluter after oil. How shocking is that? Not only that, but the waste is horrifying – in the UK alone we throw away 350,000 tonnes of clothing every year. These terrifying figures, along with Libby’s ethos of re-using and re-purposing, has inspired her on to create her own ethical clothing label, The Way of Tea. Beautiful, handmade garments dyed using only natural ingredients.
So, after Libby and I got in touch through Instagram, we decided that it would be really exciting for her to come round to my house, and give Rachel and I a mini workshop to show us how to to bundle dye using the faded booms from our gardens. It’s a simple process you can do at home, and Rachel and I were keen to see how it was done.
We were lucky enough to pick a sunny Saturday, and we set up our little workshop, with baskets full of beautiful dried flowers, and jars full of magical ingredients. Libby kindly provided us with fabrics which she had already prepared using a mordent so that the dye absorbs the fabric better. Synthetic fabrics will not absorb a dye, you need to use cotton, linen, silk, calico or wool. A simple mordent you can make yourself is diluted soya milk, and the fabric needs to be bathed in the milk and left to dry, before repeating the process and leaving for a few days before bundling with flowers.
We took our time laying out petals, berries, leaves, bark, and even the odd copper coin or rusty nail! I of course was in my element, taking photographs of the fabrics laden with their treasures, before they were tightly rolled around wooden batons and bound with string.
Our bundles were steamed for an hour, and then came the tricky part – we had to wait! For three days in fact! Libby and Rachel came round the following Tuesday evening so we could unwrap our bundles, and I will share those pictures with you on another post so you can see what our fabric bundles contained!
You can see Libby’s Instagram here. She is thinking of starting up workshops to share her natural dye techniques, so please do go and follow her if you’d like to learn more. It was such a pleasure hosting our little dye session, and I really hope we can get together again soon to try some other techniques!