According to Sasha Duerr, the author of The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes, if we can cook, we can dye. One of the chapters contained within is even entitled, "Kitchen Couture". And couture it is. Dozens of recipes tell us how to use such things as lavender, turmeric and red cabbage to dye plant and protein-based fibers the most luscious colors imaginable, all of which harmonize in ways 'only botanical colors can.'
Sasha begins at the beginning, outlining supplies we'll need, explaining in easy to understand terms the benefit of mordants as they relate to specific plant-based (like cotton) or protein-based (like wool) fibers. She also explains different dyeing techniques, including cold and hot water dyeing and even solar dyeing.
When we have the terminology down and a grasp of the procedures, Sasha then offers step by step tutorials, which include 'Try This' tips that feature objects that have been dyed using the techniques described. For example, Sasha suggests we let a silk wrap and a wool cap share the same dye bath, which are pictured below. In this case, the bath was that of red cabbage.
Of course our local farmer's market and produce department can be a source for natural plant dyes, but Sasha suggests we might also harvest and gather our own color. She tells us what we need to keep in mind as we choose our seeds as well as providing examples of different kinds of gardens in which to grow them. One easy-to-grow choice may be fennel (the yellow blossoms pictured above), which was used to dye these bridesmaid dresses:
Lest we think only fabrics can be dyed naturally, Sasha reminds us that anything that is 'natural and fibrous' such as lampshades, rugs, shells and jewelry, can be dyed to luscious effect.
Ultimately, for anyone interested in exploring natural dyes The Handbook of Natural Dyes is a must-have. Particularly for fiber fanatics, both fabric and yarn, yes, but also for anyone interested in plant-based, natural dyeing.
BONUS: Check back tomorrow for an EXCLUSIVE tutorial from the pages of The Handbook of Natural Dyes. We've been given permission to share one of Sasha's dyeing techniques, but instead of using fabric, this one uses BEADS!