Natural dyeing is seeing a renaissance recently. With more attention being paid to the sustainability of textiles, and a resurgence in personal gardens, it feels like a natural pairing.
One of the predominant voices in the natural dye conversation is Kristine Vejar, author of The Modern Natural Dyer, and owner of A Verb for Keeping Warm. If you have been to San Francisco recently, perhaps you heard of AVFKW.
Both a store and a community centerpiece, A Verb for Keeping Warm is located in Oakland and plays host to a wonderful array of brightly hued yarns and fabrics.
Vejar and her team also use their brick and mortar space to hold workshops ranging from eco-printing - using fresh leaves and flowers to print on fabric or paper - to household natural dyeing.
For serious or professional natural dyers, natural dye extract produces the most exotic and consistent colors. Historical dyes such as cochineal, indigo, lac and madder are all available in refined forms and can be easily and quickly used to a piece of fabric.
Although it is becoming increasingly popular to plant a dye garden, with flowers and plants specifically cultivated for their dyeing capabilities, you can also dye with a number of household pantry staples, such as turmeric, onion skins or the ever popular avocado pits.
Dyer Rebecca Desnos creates easy to follow color recipes that can easily be replicated at home.
When boiled avocado pits and skins create a lovely light pink dye. On wool or silk the dye will be more vibrant, on cotton or linen more subdued.
This color spectrum all made by dyeing with red onion skins, is a great example of how you can shift the color of a dye with minerals called dye auxiliaries. Dye auxiliaries sound intimidating, but really, they are used to make your dye-bath either more acidic or more alkaline. It is common for instance to consider adding household white vinegar, or baking soda to shift the color of a dye.
While blue is famously a difficult color to find in nature - and therefore very valuable - a few easy to find dyeing plants will create a bluish color. To get a true blue naturally, you have to set up an indigo vat, but this lovely shade is created by using woad, which is a bit more straightforward to work with.
Traditionally purple was created using a dyestuff called Lac, which is derived from a beetle. However this purple is created using a berry - mahonia berries, also known as the Oregon Grape. During different seasons wild plants can be foraged to create a wide range of colors - how fun is that?!