natural dyes, dandelion

natural dyes
hedgerow treasure

Lately I’ve been thinking about trying to dye my own fabrics, but I wanted subtle shades, from natural dyes. I was drawn to the idea of solar dying but I was unsure if I wanted to invest time in a method which requires lengthy periods in the sunshine, a commodity not to be relied upon in the North of England, even in a good summer. I imagined a summer of hope followed by an autumn of disappointment as the solar dying technique failed to develop the results I hoped for. Nevertheless I fancied having a go at dyeing from natural materials.

natural dyes
hedgerow pickings

I found a recipe for dyeing using dandelion heads, well they are plentiful enough at this time of year, so on a Sunday morning stroll with my sister I gathered a bag full of dandelion heads from the hedgerows near the local University. That afternoon I picked the petals from their heads and put them in a jar, added boiling water and letting them steep.

natural dyes
petals like saffron stamens

I was really hopeful that I would get a good clear yellow. The strands of bright yellow made me think of saffron and stained my fingers bright yellow, surely this was going to work.

natural dyes
yellow stained fingers

Meanwhile I soaked some plain white cotton chintz (I just happened to have a whole bolt of it which had been hanging around in my studio for years) in warm water with a little Alum added, as a mordant ( to fix the dye).

natural dyes
just petals

The instructions were to strain off the steeping liquid, add the fabric and microwave, in 2 minute bursts.

natural dyes
Steep overnight in water

I did as I was instructed,  2 minutes, stir… 2 minutes, stir… 2 minutes… ad infinitum it seemed, but there was no discernible change in colour, well, what I had is not even the palest lemon yellow, a complete fail in my estimation.

Complete Fail ?
Complete Fail ?

Undeterred I turned to an old favourite amongst natural dyes, Turmeric and white Vinegar. In a pan of boiling water I emptied half a jar of Turmeric, and a good glugg of white vinegar, and dropped on a metre of the same Chintz. The glorious yellow colour is what I had hoped for with only a fraction of the effort I’d already expended on the dandelions to no avail.

natural dyes
turmeric yellow

So what to do with the very disappointing length of dandelion yellow? I threw it down on the lawn, and while still hot and wet I sprinkled over it the rest of the jar of turmeric in the hope of achieving a two tone and speckled effect. My plan was to leave it out all night, hoping it wouldn’t rain, but not too concerned if it did, to see what the outcome would be.

natural dyes
turmeric speckling

I was quite pleased with the result, a subtle speckling of yellow on a pale lemony background. Next stop-Orange, onion skins are the best natural option, only one slight problem, my Dearest hates onions, so we never buy them. Anyone spare their onion skins please?

Am I a lucky girl?

I have pulled a few fabrics from my stash and cut them into apple cores but together they lack a certain something………maybe….. as it’s a scrap quilt I should just throw it all in and let it all hang out, wherever the fabrics fall… if you see what I mean, and pardon my clichés.

Santa brought me a Sizzix Big Shot, I’d seen apple core quilts on Pinterest and coveted them, so when I discovered how the pieces were cut I coveted the Sizzix machine as well, but I couldn’t justify buying one just to have a go at making a quilt. My Dearest however thought it would make an excellent gift this Christmas. I am delighted with it and have already begun cutting apple cores from my stash.

The Sizzix Big Shot

If you are not familiar with this piece of equipment it’s a die cutter, basically a miniature mangle, which presses dies (a shape cutting blade) onto whatever you want to cut the shape in, paper, card or fabric, mostly used by card makers and other crafty people. I have already worked out that I can use it for appliqué, with bondaweb, and to make other paper crafts as yet not crystalised but bubbling away at the back of my head ( no doubt you’ll be the first to know when I get round to trying out my as yet vague ideas)
I always find myself wondering how other quilters manage to make such well balanced colour coordinated Scrap quilts, I generally find I struggle to have the right amount of sufficient variation of colour and pattern to make a balanced quilt; do you think maybe they cheat? Maybe they go out and buy new fabrics to achieve the look they want and then just call it a scrap quilt? Surely not!
I have pulled a few fabrics from my stash and cut them into apple cores but together they lack a certain something, I’m not sure what exactly and don’t want to cut any more till I know what it is that’s missing; the dreaded yellow perhaps, or maybe greater variation of darks and lights, at the moment what I have cut are mainly mid shades. I shall need to pull out a great many more fabrics from my stash and throw them in a pile I think, then pare it back, pulling out the ones that don’t work, till I have the right mix.

my first apple core quilt in the making

Having said that I think one of my weaknesses is a need to control, perhaps, as it’s a scrap quilt I should just throw it all in and let it all hang out, wherever the fabrics fall… if you see what I mean, and pardon my clichés.
The truth is I didn’t pull out of my stash the fabrics I love, I pulled out the fabrics I could spare, the unloved and languishing bits, so it’s no wonder they aren’t yet making an inspiring mix. I need inspiration, one or two well chosen fabrics to pull it all together, or white, or navy? Oh Help! What I really need is a few days of free time in my studio to let this quilt come together.