A few years ago I started to dye my own fabric from flowers, tree bark, blueberries, black beans, walnut shells, dried leaves, and other items found in nature.
The process of preparing fabric for dyeing is not difficult, but it takes time. I use 100% white cotton fabric, soaked for twelve hours in a mixture of soy milk and water. Then, I prepare a pot of water and boil the things I’ve found on my nature walks.
In early January, I collected pine cones during a walk in my neighborhood. I had no idea what to expect or if boiling pine cones would do anything at all. It was all an experiment to me, but I put four pine cones in boiling water and was surprised to see burgundy appear.
I put small pieces (8” x 8”) of the prepared cotton in a pan of dye, letting the fabric soak for about an hour. Removing the fabric, it air dries, then it’s ready to use.
The muted colors that come from dyeing items found in nature bring peace to my soul.
I also dry flowers, making paint by soaking the petals in a mixture of water and a pinch of baking soda. I can also use dye to paint fabric or paper.
When I gather flowers or tree bark or pine cones or other items from nature I see their beauty. I notice colors, shapes, patterns and feel the texture.
Dyeing fabric with natural color is a story of giving. I appreciate the beautiful flowers in my neighbor’s yard. When a particular flower’s season comes to an end and my neighbor shares the petals with me, I make natural dye or paint, and then transfer the color to fabric. In this process, the flower continues to give. The flower might be dried or seemingly “dead” but its beauty carries on in the color now soaked into the fabric.
[📸 The hand-pieced and quilted hexagon pattern in the photo is called “Flower Garden.” I dyed the fabric using items from nature like flowers, leaves, and bark, as well as fruit and vegetables. The pale yellow center is from a bunch of fresh daffodils. The row around the center contains pink fabric from an avocado skin. The brown fabric is from a collection of items I found on a walk along the Monon Trail including a walnut shell, acorns, bark from a tree and dried leaves. The last row contains gray fabric from black beans and purple fabric from blueberries. The dye for the bright yellow binding comes from the skin of a yellow onion.]