2019 Explorations 2: Eco-Dying

Continuing the review of new art forms I explored in 2019, Eco-dying was a surprise pleasure. This beginners workshop was run by Irene Pagram from Colac as part of the Art In Dereel workshop program.

Combined with an introduction to felting, by Jane Bear, also from Colac, this was a full day workshop. I enjoyed the felt making, and was pleased with the felt bowl I created, but the repeated rolling of the wet fibres to make a small square of felt took a toll on me with my recovering spine, so I don’t think I will be doing that at home.

The eco-dying process uses natural oils from leaves, bark, peel, etc to create colourful patterns on natural fibers, without the use of added chemicals. In the workshop, Irene brought along a range of eucalyptus leaves, lemon peel, grape vine leaves, petals from various flowers, onion skins and a few other bits and pieces. We made patterns with these on swatches of pure wool, silk and watercolour paper.

Eco-dying avoids using chemicals as a mordant. In place of this, the fabric and paper are wrapped around items made from iron, copper or aluminium to fix the dye to the fabric through boiling them together for a couple of hours. The results are just stunning!

I intend to do some further exploration into eco-dying in 2020. The secret is to know which species of eucalypt will produce colour, and how strong the colour will be. It will be a hit and miss process, but with a bit of luck, I am hoping to produce some interesting patterns made with leaves from our property.

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