It’s spring in the UK and I’m painting with one of my favorite native dye plants: hawthorn. With a lot of patience and a little help from some baking soda, the color deepened to a dark rose. The gradual pH change and oxidation of the dye is always fascinating! Many dye plants are sensitive to pH and can produce beautiful shades that are slightly acidic or alkaline.
Hawthorn produces beautiful shades throughout the year, whether you dye it with its leaves and flowers, or a combination of leaves or leaves and berries. In addition, the bark has a wonderful tannin-rich color. For this occasion I used plant tops: flowers, leaves, stems and some tree branches too. I am looking forward to the berry season in the coming months.
I had to remind myself of my painting tips – time and patience!! This shade took about 5 days to develop. I was ready to give up a few times, but the wait was definitely worth it.
I fixed it simple stripes on fabric using the tie dye technique in this tutorial. One of my favorite techniques is to paint a large amount of fabric in a fairly modest sized bowl. By folding and then tying, you can control where the paint settles into the folds, giving a fairly uniform pattern. I like the slightly darker spots as it shows the process.
I always know that people will try to copy my colors. While this is tempting, it can be frustrating when you have a specific shade in mind and your color doesn’t match.
My goal has always been to encourage experimentation with local dye plants rather than replicating my exact colors. This brings me back to the title of my first book: Plant color at your fingertips! Wherever you are in the world, I’d love for you to explore your local botanicals. You will have unique plants and if they are non-toxic, put them in a paint pot. The method in it Plant color at your fingertips will gently guide you.
All I want is to help you get to know your native plants better. Spending more time in nature can have many benefits – it’s good for the mind and body. I could write more about this, so I’ll leave it for another time!
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