Growing Colours

The Outdoor Learning team have been working on a Lottery funded project about using natural things to dye fabric. There are so many plants grown in the UK that can produce a dye; different parts of the plant can be used to get different colours e.g. their roots, petal, leaves or bark.

Lockdown has been difficult in many ways but it has given us time to research and practice using both wool and cloth to see what colours we can make. In between the lockdowns we have been able to offer workshops to pass on our knowledge.

Last autumn we collected flowers growing at the farm and removed their petals; we picked ones with a strong dye potential. We worked with a small nurture group from a local primary school and had a go at roll dyeing. The petals were sprinkled onto pre-mordanted cloth and then rolled and steamed. The children were really excited to see all the colours and leaf shapes appear.

We have also experimented with vegetable, such as beetroot, onion skins, purple basil and avocado. This is a good way of using up what is left from your cooking or if you have a glut from the allotment! We ran a workshop for farm volunteers dyeing sheep wool and everyone was surprised that purple beet root seemed as strong a colour in the pan as purple basil but gave an orange colour on the wool and that avocado pips give a lovely blush pink.

The brightest red natural dye comes from the roots of the Madder plant and so we have planted some at the farm along with Woad which was used traditionally to make blue colours. See if you can find where they are growing….

After a lot of experimenting our team put together kits showing people how to make a crotchet flower using the different naturally dyed wool.