Artist Cat Lewis led a workshop on botanical dyes this weekend at the garden. Cat is a textile artist with a wealth of experience working with natural dyes. She runs a workshop called Cat Colourfield. In this workshop, we focussed on the range of botanical dyes that could be found in the garden.
To get started, Cat introduced one of the most simple methods of dyeing - ecoprinting.
We gathered a range of leaves, flowers, roots and bark and laid them out on a piece of flax fabric. We then rolled them around tin cans, fastened them with some string and placed them in a steam bath for a few hours. Cat explained how adding a few rusty nails can help to intensify colours. Iron acts as a mordant (a substance which essentially helps to fix colour on to fabric).
We then learnt a bit about different plants that can dye fabric. Cat boiled up some nettle and we places a range of fabric samples into the dye bath. It was interesting to see the differing effects of the dye on materials as well as the different effects caused by mordants - we used an iron bath that consisted of essentially a pool of water which had contained rusty iron nails
At the end of the workshop, we learnt a bit more about woad (Isatis tinctoria). Woad is in the brassica family and can produce a blue tone in fabric. It is said to have been used by the picts for blue face paint and was even used to dye police uniform up until recently. After the workshop we planted out a few woad plants in the garden in preparation for the next workshop with Cat on the 21st September. In this workshop we are going to experiment with botanical inks as well as with woad. If you'd like to learn more about pigments in plants, do join us. Find out more about the workshop here.