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Sunday, 4 September 2011

Eco Dyeing Normandy

On a recent trip to Normandy we did a little natural dyeing, Eco-Colour style with locally sourced fabric, water, rust and plant matter. Not having yet got my hands on India Flint's beautiful book, we just experimented with the little knowledge I have picked up from the very inspiring and rapidly growing fan base of this wonderful and exhilarating method.

Being in quite idyllic surroundings in a sleepy village surrounded by flax fields called Malleville-les-Grés in Normandy, we couldn't help but photograph our experiments. Here's the (little) method in our madness...

 A trip to the local beach to collect the sea water for mordanting the fabric...

Then a walk to our local brocante to find linen and silk for dyeing...

Very pleased with our linen haul and we even found a silk scarf, most pieces only one or two euros! We also found some beautiful rusted objects that would have been wonderful for making rust prints. We got a couple of pieces of iron to add to the dye pot.

Soaking the fabric in the sea water... 

We left these soaking overnight. We didn't have enough time to dry them before wrapping the bundles so I'm not sure how effective the sea water mordanting would have been.

The next day we collected our plant matter. 

One bundle included this old rusty chain and padlock and a few Hydrangea leaves and a bunch of Rumex tops...

With little helpers we laid out hydrangea flowers on the silk scarf. 

It might have been setting oneself up for disappointment to make this look so pretty at this stage!

Wrapping the bundles in the rain. 

...all tied up

A large bolster cushion cover made from fine linen was opened out and this became a bit of a test piece where we laid out various wind fall including cherry leaves, some kind of spurge, beech, rose, rumex, a fern etc

The silk bundle and the linen test bundle were boiled in the filtered sea water in an aluminium pot...

A beautiful copper tinderbox...

The rust bundles of linen and leaves were boiled in filtered sea water in an aluminium pot separately. That lovely copper kettle was too nice to use but it made a nice prop! 

After two hours on the stove they then went outside like this to rest overnight. The water in the pot with only plant matter turned a deep red and the iron pot went a murky black.

The next day...

I wish I kept this red dyebath. I wonder which leaves mostly contributed to make this colour?

Opening the test piece. Not many of our chosen leaves did much here or were perhaps given enough time to do much anyway. 

But the fern made a vibrant green print... but sadly that soon after faded away. 

An embroidered linen cloth that was bundled with a small rusty chain and some hydrangea leaves

This was another embroidered linen cloth that had a few sprigs of the rumex in as well as a very rusty iron chain, rings and padlock. It revealed some lovely colours and patterns...

Lastly the silk scarf and the pretty hydrangeas....

Suprisingly the hydrangea all left their mark in quite a lovely blue. The orange flowers (not sure what these are called) left a very vibrant yellow print. 

The red/orange was from the dyebath and you can see the resist of the rope ties. 

We left them drying in the apple orchard... 


  1. Wow! So impressed Brenna - they look fabulous and I love reading the process you used. You've got me dreaming about escaping to your craft farm :) Kx

  2. well done.You may fine you have more prints if you leave the bundles to rest longer...if you could wait a few days or until they are dry before you open them. But in the beginning l could never wait more than a few hours before l opened them! Ha. you have some lovely prints though. xxkeep dyeing my friendxx if you fancy having a eco-dyeing day when you come back...l am only in Putney!!xxlynda

  3. Hi Lynda, yes, an eco dyeing day would be fun. I have lots to learn. I've been kind of holding out buying India's eco colour book because I'm kind of liking not getting too bogged down in details. I have a tendency to buy a book about a new subject I'm interested in, read it cover to cover and then feel to overwhelmed by the possibilities and unable to do anything. So this is kind of working for me, and trying out little experiments is inspiring me to carry on doing it a bit different each time and not get too obsessed with controlling outcomes. Next time I will try to leave some to dry. For some reason I thought you were supposed to leave them in their dyebath for days/months!
    It's funny, going to South London is like going to another country. It seems so far away. It's funny how we get so stuck in our little corners of the city, don't you find? thanks for the tips! xxbrenna

  4. Fabulous post ...from beginning to end!

  5. have not heard from you in a ok? I have just opened my own studio and workshops in Putney...feal free to drop in anytime!x lynda


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