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  • Writer's pictureRachael Prime

Exploring Natural Dyeing

Challenges and Reflections in Artistic Practice

In my current artists practice, I typically utilise fabric that I have painted using simple fabric paint. Using old tablecloths, curtain liners, and bed sheets as fabric for my embroidery pieces.

As part of my Developing Creative Practice Arts Council bid, I explored switching from plastic-based paint to natural dyes, I encountered some challenges. My initial delve into natural dyeing involved an indigo bath, know for it’s deep blue colour. Enrolling in online course with The Wild Dyery, a Merseyside artists specialist in. natural dyeing techniques, provided valuable insights into the historical and practical aspects of the craft, starting with indigo dyeing.

Unfortunately, as I delve deeper into the process, I realise it wasn’t as straightforward as I had hoped. Pre-dyeing steps such as fabric souring and mordant application were necessary, and I discovered that my perused cotton fabrics would usually be a ploy-cotton blend, limiting the depth of colour absorption.

Despite trying various elements of the process with 100% cotton or silk fabric and experimenting with natural dyeing substances like dandelions and madder, I found the procedures time-consuming and not aligned with my limited studio availability due to other commitments.

Two primary concerns emerged regarding natural dyeing: the substantial water usage even for small fabric amounts and the reliance on new materials rather that utilising my existing stash of reclaimed cream/white fabric.

Upon reflection, I realised I could explore colour through other reclaimed fabrics such as t-shirts, coats and coloured bedsheets without the need to dyeing or painting. This approach not only aligns with sustainability bus also allows these existing fabrics to influence my designs organically.

While I plan to revisit natural dyeing in the future, particularly in experimenting with reclaimed fabrics to alter colour tones, I recognise the need for more hands-on guidance to overcome previous challenges.

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