In the last few months, I've been learning all I can about natural dyes through reading books + blogs and experimenting in my kitchen. I'm only starting this journey, but I already know that natural dye is going to become a large facet of The Wild Sweet Pea. I do all of my sewing in a studio separate from my home, in an attempt to maintain a somewhat professional facade; and to keep my work-home life as separate as possible. That being said, I still get restless and crave some fiber-involved hobbies at home, so experimenting with dyeing fabric has been a great way to hang out with my family and still keep my hands busy with a creative project.
While I have a pot of dye materials on the stove, I can wash the dishes and meal prep. When I'm straining dye materials in the backyard or hanging dyed fabrics on the line to dry, my toddler can be outside with me, occupied with rocks and dirt and the like. When I'm throwing a load of freshly dyed-and-dried fabrics into the washing machine, I can chat with my husband about his day working at the nursery down the street or restoring wetlands around the state. Since my husband rarely spends time with me at the studio (it's kind of just my special place and also just a horrible mess all the time), dyeing fabric at home is a way for us to connect-- He asks me questions, provides feedback, gives me new ideas, and all the forehead kisses I could ever want. It's great.
We dream of homesteading together, living off the land as much as possible. Gardening and using kitchen scraps to dye fabric are as far as we've gotten so far, but hey, we're only 25. We have lots of time.
If you read last week's first installment in the Natural Living series, you might remember that the goal of living more sustainably and using more ecologically responsible materials in my work stems from my formal education in environmental studies, and of course, my love of the earth.
(If you missed last week's article, click the image below to read!)
Upcycling thrifted white or beige fabric through natural dye is an absolutely enjoyable way to reduce your carbon footprint and reduce textile waste. I often feel horribly guilty for all of the materials that I use in my daily life AND all of the supplies (and their packaging, ugh) that I use to make my quilts. Using upcycled fabric is a way for me to ease this guilt, a little. The extent of the massive pollution by the textile industry as a whole is way too large to make a dent in individually, like with many industries. However, I firmly believe that all of these "drops in the bucket" can make a difference, eventually, if enough of us choose to minimize the amount of brand-new fabrics we purchase. You know, supply and demand.
Also, many thirft stores are run by charities, so by finding hidden gems of fabric at your local secondhand stores, your money could be going to a good cause, unlike shopping from a major corporation. (And yes, Value Village and Goodwill ARE major corporations, but that's a story for another time... they're still great places to find fabric and reduce your personal textile waste + carbon footprint, but don't be fooled, their CEOs are still rich as heck).
All of the base fabric I use for dyeing is quilting cotton that started in a shade of white or beige when I gleaned it from a thrift store, yard sale or destash sale. I give these unwanted pieces of fabric a new life by dyeing them beautiful colors with materials I had on hand or had saved in the fridge for awhile... like avocado skins and pits, which makes an appealing dusty rose color; or yellow onion skins, which make a light butter shade.
So far, my dye experiments have yielded sunset shades. Fabrics have been dyed with varying amounts of avocado skins, avocado pits, turmeric, paprika, and yellow onion skins. I'm researching to find some more foods or herbs or wild plants that will make more vibrant shades of pink. I think I may try beets soon, because I love the pretty shade of pink on Free People's natural dye blog.
These are my findings:
avocado skins: medium dark blush avocado pits: light to medium blush avocado pits & skins: medium beige-blush yellow onion skins: bright beige to light yellow avocado pits, and yellow onion skins: pink-beige to light orange turmeric: vibrant yellow turmeric & paprika: vibrant orange yellow onion skins & turmeric: beige-yellow to vibrant yellow yellow onion skins & paprika: "creamsicle" light orange or beige with hint of orange
The dyeing process takes anywhere from ten minutes to 48 hours. All fabrics are prewashed and mordanted for colorfastness and tested for colorfastness again after dyeing.
All of my sunset shade fabrics have been curated into fat quarter bundles, available now in my online shop along with coordinate bundles in solids and prints. Many of these coordinating fabrics have also been purchased secondhand. Scroll down to see all the bundles!
There are only a few bundles, so don't sleep on this!
After hiking in the woods with my husband and daughter last Sunday, I felt inspired to work with more greens, browns, and blues. So, I'm on the hunt for wild nettles to make a rich emerald and a source for a rustic brown. As I type this, I'm soaking some black beans to make a periwinkle blue dye. Stay tuned! I often share my progress on Instagram and update social media more often than the blog, so follow me on IG @thewildsweetpea to learn more about my creative process.
Below are a few recommended books about natural dyes. I have affiliate links listed below, or you can find these at your local library, like I did. If you do choose to order using these links, I will earn a small commission at absolutely no cost to you.
If you want to learn even more about natural dyes, I'm constantly sharing resources on pinterest. (I also share quilt patterns + ideas, cool embroidery, landscape photos, and recipes, if any of those topics are your thing)
Thinking of picking up quilting?
Craftsy, the online crafty resource with AMAZING, fun, in-depth classes, is running a 7-day free trial special. Beyond the basics of quilting and embroidery that were taught to me at a young age, Craftsy has been my number one source of new creative knowledge. My favorite class is Suzy Quilt's Sew Mojo video course.
For the sake of transparency, I earn $20 for each person that signs up for a free trial. So it's a really great deal for both of us! If you've been wanting to support my work but don't have the means, now's your chance to do so while gaining access to 1300 courses. Win-Win.
****This post contains affiliate links. That means if you choose to click any of these links I'll make a small commission. I would never recommend anything I didn't believe in. Affiliate commission sales help me have the funds to keep providing free content on the blog, so if you do follow any of the links, THANK YOU.