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The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing

Dyeing Naturally

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The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing

The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing by Eva Lambert and Tracy Kendall.

Interweave Press.

Chemical dyes like acid dyes are much more popular these days than more traditional methods, but people have been dyeing yarn and fabric with natural materials such as flowers, tree bark and berries for thousands of years, and those methods have held on for a reason.

The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing: Techniques and Recipes for Dyeing Fabrics, Yarns, and Fibers at Home by Eva Lambert and Tracy Kendall explores why natural dyeing is such a great choice, the wide variety of materials that can be used to color yarn and fabrics and how to best accomplish the colors you're looking for from your home dye space.

Dyeing Basics

The book covers a lot of things you need to know, think about and do before you set about trying to dye with natural materials -- or anything else, for that matter. This includes the basic supplies you need, characteristics of different kinds of fiber, preparing fibers, fabric and yarn to be dyed, the basics of color theory and using pattern in textile design.

A section on collecting dyestuffs covers all the major categories of materials you might want to dye with -- flowers, leaves, bark, roots, berries -- and describes some of the plants you can harvest from, what colors will be produced and when is the best time to collect the material for dyeing.

If a dyestuff works best fresh or if a large quantity is needed to produce good color, that information in included, too.

A lengthy chapter on techniques describes and illustrates various ways to get color on yarn or fabric and how different ingredients can alter the finished color. For instance the different mordants (chemicals that help the dye adhere to the fiber) are described along with how to use them and the potential pros and cons of each.

Techniques and Recipies

The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing includes instructions on indigo vat dyeing, top dyeing yarn (dyeing with one material then dyeing again with indigo), tie-dyeing and "simplified" ikat (a color blocking method), random dyeing techniques like knotting and producing multiple shades and "expanded dyeing," in which the yarn is initially dyed and then another dyestuff is added to the mix and the yarn is dyed again.

There are also many techniques for dyeing fabric explained, from batiks to tie dyeing, resist dyeing to multicolor dyeing.

Recipes using particular dyestuffs and mordants and included for both yarn and fabric. This is where the book really shines. Readers will learn, for instance, that dyeing with alkanet root can produce yarns that are purple-brown, purple-gray, khaki or khaki tinged with red, depending on the mordant used. There are pictures of each kind of yarn and a recipe for each, as well as a general method for using that particular dyeing material.

The book covers common dyestuffs like madder, heather, cochineal and goldenrod, as well as things you might not have heard of if you're not already familiar with natural dyeing, such as sanders wood, which comes from India, and logwood.

Bottom Line

Anyone who wants to learn more about how to dye yarn and fabric with natural materials should own a copy of The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing. This book is full of great information and recipes that should make it easy to get just the color you want out of whatever dyestuff you have on hand.

Dyers who already have experience working with natural materials might find this book interesting as well for the variety of materials and techniques covered. If you've been experimenting with natural dyes but want to take a more scientific approach -- or just want to see what can be done without having to do all the experimenting yourself -- this book is a great resource.

Publication date: February 2010

Publisher's website

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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