Wednesday 7 August 2013

A Crafty Long Weekend: Natural Tie-Dyeing at the Cottage

This long weekend I took advantage of some time off and good weather to head up to my family's cottage on Lake Simcoe. I've found that the distractions and responsibilities of everyday life disappear while I'm up there, so it's an ideal place to work on crafty projects. This weekend I decided to focus on natural dyeing!

I've done some natural dyeing before, but had yet to venture into tie dyeing in this medium. When people think of tie dye, they often associate it with psychedelic bright neon colours and the hippy dippy fashions of the 1960s/70s. A few weeks ago I picked up Tie Dye: Dye it, Wear it, Share it, a book by fashion designer Shabd Simon-Alexander. This book is totally inspiring, and shows you how to use tie dye in more modern, wearable ways. I was confident that the soft, often muted colours of natural dyes would result in some lovely creations.

Hollie and Meg joined me on Sunday and Monday, but before they came up I got started on preparing some fabric to be dyed. To create polkadots I wrapped corn kernels (the only small uniformly round thing I had on hand) with fabric, then covered that with saran wrap, then elasticated it in place. I quickly ran out of elastic bands, so I scrunched the rest of the fabric and secured it with elastics.

The wonderful thing about tie-dye is that you can't go wrong! Sure there were some techniques we loved more than others, but everything we did looked great! It was all about experimentation. Some of our favourite techniques were folding and rolling (which creates stripes), and scrunching. "You can't go wrong with scrunching!" was an oft-heard phrase repeated throughout the weekend.

The best thing about natural dyeing at the cottage is being able to rinse everything out in the lake. Easy peasy! 

Peggy was present to inspect (and lick) our handiwork.

We rigged up all sorts of devices to try to get the dye patterns that we wanted. In the case of the above and below photos, Hollie wanted to only dip half of her bundle in the logwood dye bath, so she used a stick and some string to suspend it in place. 

We dyed with logwood (purple), madder (pink) and pomegranate (brown-ish). Using hot plates makes it possible to do this outside, which is great in the summer when the kitchen can be sweltering. It would be amazing to dye over an open fire one day.

Peg is an excellent supervisor.

We had a wonderful productive weekend, and now have lots of beautiful fabric to turn into napkins, scarves, blankets, tanks, and tees. 


  1. this makes me so inspired! i am currently waiting on the arrival of that same book,& hopefully i can be as successful as you guys were.

  2. So beautiful! I was lucky enough to see the results in person when Meg came home and I want to dye everything now.

  3. Gorgeous! I have wanted to try tie dyeing and natural dyeing, but not thought of doing both at the same time. Now I really must get on it!

  4. What did you use to get the blue dye? any mordants?