Tonight I attended the free Fashion 1: Organic Fabric Dyes workshop at The Edge. We made fabric dyes from plants, including beetroot, tumeric, tarragon, red cabbage and quandong. Plant-based dyes work well with animal-based textiles like wool and silk. I've used synthetic dyes in the past for tie dying and giving new life to old clothes, but I didn't realise how easy it was to make natural dyes from vegetable and plant ingredients.

We used alum as a mordant (i.e. mineral salts that help to set the dye) by soaking our wool in alum mixed with hot water. We chopped up the produce and boiled it in a big pot of water for about half an hour, then strained the produce out and dropped some wool in to the dye, leaving it soaking in the simmering dye mix until we were happy with the color. We finished off by rinsing the wool in a mixture of salt and vinegar in water.

I was most surprised by the color produced by the beetroot, I was expecting it to be much more purple. All of our colors were pretty subtle, and were completely different (much less intense) than the samples from the previous time the workshop was run. My favorite dye was the quandong, though I was surprised it wasn't blue at all. Perhaps we needed to use juicier produce, or leave our wool in longer.

Tarragon, beetroot, quandong, tumeric (with mordant), cabbage, tumeric (no mordant)

Thanks to our facilitator, Helen, for guiding us through the process of making our own dyes. I look forward to experimenting with my own produce-based dyes with yarn for future knitting and crochet projects.