A Jar, plant material, a pinch of Alum, Sun and Time - Solar Dyeing couldn’t be easier!
If you are willing to wait a few weeks and let the natural energy of the sun help create beautiful vibrant effects on yarn or small textile pieces, Solar Dyeing is a gratifying method to experiment with.
Solar dyeing is a magical process that is suitable for small quantities of textiles. It is a sustainable and environmental practice as it is low on water use, and low on energy as you just need to heat the kettle once.
In hot countries, some natural dyeing can be done without any man made heat source, in our colder climates here in Europe, this is not so easy. Solar dyes get around this by using air-tight containers, the sun’s rays, and time.
It is so magical to see the colour slowly being released from the plant and taken up by the textile - the wonder of chemistry and biology in action in front of your eyes! Naturally, this is a great experiment to do with children.
Recently I have been enjoying processes which are slow - slowing down your mind and giving space to the joy of what you are experimenting with. Too often I get caught up in the ‘doing’, and can miss the realisation and pleasure of what is actually happening.
And Solar Dye Jars are so pretty to look at too! I am almost reluctant to open them once the time has come…
I found Yarrow Cloth of Gold a really beautiful plant to work with using this method. It looked like a glistening jewel in the jar, and gave the yarn a wonderful zingy scent afterwards. It seemed to really enjoy being treated in this way. I wonder what your favourite plant to solar dye with will be?
Fibre - Pre-washed 100% natural protein fibre textile (wool yarn, silk fabric.)
Alum - Aluminium Potassium Sulphate ( often found in Asian food shops, can buy online from https://appleoakfibreworks.com/ )
Water - rain water is best, but not necessary
Jar with lid - sterilised
Plant Material - Some plants to get you started; Marigolds, Dyer’s Camomile, Hawthorn, Alder cones, dark Dahlia’s, dark Hollyhocks, Purple Bearded Iris…
*This recipe uses alum which is a metallic salt that occurs in nature, and is non-toxic. Small quantities are used in some traditional cooking. However you still do not want to inhale the vapour, and it is not advised ingesting any quantity of it. It forms a chemical bond with natural dyes, allowing them to adhere to the fibre. It works in combination with protein fibres. I will be writing more in a future blog about the different types of fibres and how they respond differently to methods of dyeing and what is needed to prep textiles for natural dyeing.
Gather and prepare all your materials:
I’d love to see your experiments! Tag me if posting on Instagram with @ashleighellis_natureartist
Happy Dyeing My Friends!