The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing: Fabric, Yarn, and Fiber
by Eva Lambert
Before there were aniline dyes, there was logwood, indigo, cutch, weld and walnut hulls. Nowadays, you can dye your yarn or quilt fabric with commercial dyes or you can gather natural materials such as onion skins (yellow), cochineal insects (reds and maroons) and a number of flowers such as safflower and make colored yarns and fabrics.
Not only that, but using techniques such as shibori and tie-dying, you can make patterned yarns and fabrics for knitting, weaving and quilting.
This book goes over each color by material such as weld or indigo, shows you how to make the dyebath, mordant the material (a process of salting that allows the dye particles to adhere to the yarn or fabric.) Overdyeing effects, tie-dying, shading, and blends are covered.
While this is not the most complete book I’ve seen on natural dyes, it is comprehensive and the best part is that either knitters, weavers or quilters (or other fabric artists) will find instructions here that are useful.
I’ve done both indigo and onion-skin dyeing of handspun yarn and it’s well worth it for the fiber artist to try this at least once, as it gives great insight into the history and difficulty of obtaining beautifully colored materials.
You never quite look at a dyed fabric the same way again, knowing how difficult obtaining certain colors can be. For example, greys are covered as well as beige and while we don’t think of these as “colors” per se, they are something that unless you are using naturally colored sheep wool, you won’t find in nature.
There is a certain subtle nature to natural dyes, colors muted that are somehow more evocative than bright artificial dyes. The greens you get from elder, the golden yellows from onion, and the incredible greenish blue of indigo are amazing to behold.
If you are interesting in dyeing for either spinning, weaving, knitting or quilting, there is a lot in this book to try out.