Leigh Bowser – natural dyeing

As part of my textile and embroidery practice, I try to be conscious of the sustainability of my fabric choices. I have always wanted to try natural dying, but have neither found the time to do the research or had the confidence to approach it alone. The 16% for Artist’s scheme gave me the funded time to allow myself to really delve into this new technique and explore it fully.

After reading a variety of sources, I was able to confidently scower (hand wash) and mordant (pre-boil in a salt solution) fabric already in my stash, using ingredients I already had in my kitchen cupboards. After these processes, I spent a day boiling every fruit and vegetable I could find in my fridge and freezer. This included:

  • Red Cabbage
  • Beetroot
  • Onion Skins
  • Blueberries
  • Tumeric
  • Avocado Skins
  • Tea
  • Coffee

Red cabbage became a particularly interesting experiment, as changing the PH of the dye mixture also altered the colour of the dye – Bicarb turning it green and vinegar turning it pink. Blueberries also turned a dark shade of navy blue when mixed with bicarb.

After an evening of prep and a day of boiling and dying, I was able to achieve an entire rainbow of colour, entirely provided by the cupboards in my home! The fabrics will now be used towards a story quilt I am currently creating as part of my MA in Illustration.

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