Thursday, 5 August 2010

Review: Natural Dyes

[amazon ISBN=1847971008][/amazon][amazon ISBN=1847971008]Natural Dyes[/amazon]
By Judy Hardman and Sally Pinhey, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-84797-100-5

By Louise Schelde Jensen

I have been dyeing with plants and other natural materials for about three years now, and have gained experience with different types of plants and the colours you can get out of them. I have also acquired the basic 'know-how' needed when dealing with wool, silks and plant materials.

[caption id="attachment_2102" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Dyeing in a cauldron (copyright Louise)"][/caption]

Nonetheless, I always have a book or two with me in when I dye just to make sure I do things right and thereby get the best result. For a long time my books on the subject have (being Danish) been Danish books from the 1960s and 1970s and even though not much have changed in the experiments with dyeing it was a joy for me to discover that a new book on the subject had arrived on the marked. I was thrilled to be asked by Historic Crafts to read and do a review on the book. The review has been long time coming due to my new job as a full-time Viking at Bork Vikinge Harbour, Denmark. But the advantage of this is that I have now had the opportunity to try out some of the things mentioned in the book. I'm glad to say that this new book has become my new companion each time I put on a new cauldron with wool and plants.
The book is easy to read and the chapters are very well organized. It begins by listing the mordants. Then on to the different equipment that is needed when dying with plants – pots and pans, a thermometer, things to stir with and so on. This chapter also points out how important safety precautions are. The second chapter is about fabrics, how to prepare them for the dyes and the different ways of dying. One of the great things about this chapter is that the writers have been making experiments with light fastness and this is one of the questions that is often asked - how well does a colour bind to the fabric or yarn? It is very valuable information and a thing I have always wanted to try myself but have never got around to doing.

[caption id="attachment_2101" align="aligncenter" width="490" caption="Louise dyeing (copyright Louise)"][/caption]

The largest chapter consists of a great catalog of the many plants which can be used for natural dyeing. The authors have made a special system for the plants so that the book can be used as a kind of plant thesaurus, which in turn makes it handy when collecting plants and looking to dye in a certain colour. The 53 plants are mentioned in alphabetical order and by their most common names. Other names is also include as are the Latin name. The plant is then described on one page and illustrated in beautiful watercolor on the opposite page. Below the very interesting description of the cultural history of the plant you will find an image of a bobbin with different colour samples that can be achieved with this specific plant. The results of different mordants are displayed and also the differences between using the leaves, flowers, roots and other unique elements of this particular plant. This level of detail is fantastic and again the book is very easy to use. The many colour samples are lovely to look at and make for a great guide to the spectrum of colour that can be produced from natural dyes.
The last chapter brings a whole new element to the book that I have not yet seen in other books about plant dyeing – different guides to making your own dye plant gardens. As a woman with at passion for both crafts and the great outdoors, this sort of guides really makes me want to plant my own garden with plant for more organized experiments and projects.

[caption id="attachment_2103" align="aligncenter" width="405" caption="Louise's natural dyed yarn (copyright Louise)"][/caption]

The guides in the book can give help and inspiration to different types of gardens – front gardens, wet and dry gardens and container gardens. The projects are well described and drawings of the garden designs are attached. You can't help being inspired to grow your own garden from this.
All in all I'm very pleased with this new book about plant dyeing. It has a modern touch, is easy to read and use and I must say that it makes you want to dye. I would warmly recommend it for both museums shops, experienced dyers and newcomers to this type of craft. I have had much pleasure of it already and know that I will continue to do so.

The images in this post are copyright of Louise Schelde Jensen. If you wish to use the images please request permission from Louise.

Buy it on Amazon:
[amazon ISBN=1847971008][/amazon]

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