“True Colors” book review (or how to make yourself even *more* unpopular)

Firstly, i’m ambivalent, PERIOD, about posting this review. I realize it may have been a deeply personal choice of the editor/writer to make these particular inclusions in the book. I’m also rather curious how some have been given the title of “World Master” as well. But honestly? I wouldn’t recommend buying unless you’re one of those people who has to have *EVERY* book on a subject: borrow from the library when it gets there.  (Petition your library: they are always open to reasonable requests for aquisitions, and it’s still a sale for the writer/publisher.) It’s not that it’s expensive (it isn’t by a long shot) but you’d be better off with other more historically “slanted” books, like Dominique Cardon’s epistle, any of Yoshiko Wada’s beautiful offerings, Jenny Balfour-Paul’s indigo histories, and many museum guides online and sometimes available as catalogues.




This is the first natural dye book i’ve ever been ambivalent about. On one hand, it’s exciting visually, a cornucopia of natural colour use around the world, illustrated gorgeously with close-ups and atmospheric scenes. Spotlights are on cultural meaning and history, empowerment of indigenous people, and the uses of ethno/geo-centric dye materials, in traditional and in cutting edge directions. The many facets of indigo are intriguing, and in some cases jaw dropping in the dedication to preservation of a skill, and in the use of aeons old techniques and materials for contemporary art applications in other media. The indigo sections in particular opened my heart to appreciate *all* the permutations of blue possible and to embrace the vagaries of the vat, finding beauty in the palest to darkest, no “wrong” blue as a result. The book should have been edited then and there, to be finished.

The reverse side of the coin however is the inclusion of erroneously labelled “sustainable” branded “dyers” who promote the use of food waste, fugitive dyes and the instant gratification element of DIY, with no actual historical data. This isn’t a recipe book by a long shot, but i would have expected a disclaimer by some, (even one!) of these currently Popular Girls, about dyes that last, are done correctly with proper mordanting, with light and wash fast tests, instead of “seasonal colour” that essentially wastes more resources by the very fact that they have to be redyed over and over to have colour. I feel that these chapters are puff pieces only, designed to fill the book, with no actual value added, but since there are only a couple of these artistes included, there is a small blessing in that.

As i said, this isn’t a recipe book by a long shot, and was never intended to be, but in giving the title “World Masters” to some of the included artists, it cheapens the whole field, promotes bad practice, and encourages questionable business models. It’s unfortunate that the classic dyers, innovative artists and contemporary uses will be glossed over by many in favour of the easy to do fugitive. A coffee table book, and it may pique some interest in those who intend to get serious, but in the end, not a reference book, not destined to become a classic, and not very useful for the most part, except perhaps as a “Digest”.


Unfortunately, or funnily, or strangely even, i cannot post this review on Amazon, because the book hasn’t been “released” yet. Really? I got my copy 2 days ago!

You’ll note too that i actually was rather mild in my condemnation for fugitive dyes, and mentioned no names 🙂 These ARE *MY* personal opinions, and whilst many think i’m a Know It All, i have never steered anyone wrong, deliberately or otherwise, with information i have shared. “The facts, Ma’am, just the facts.”


4 responses to ““True Colors” book review (or how to make yourself even *more* unpopular)

  1. Good on you! Now please allow me to comment on the use of the title Masters in relation to women. As for brave women having balls . . . my ire is up! I seem to have been challenging sexist language all my live and it getting no better it seems. And no, I don’t sleep in the master bedroom. I sleep in the biggest one. Wow, what a rant to start the day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Didn’t even think of that 🙂 Frankly a female or a male who acts to me is an actor, not an actor/actress so i don’t see any confusion in using “Master”, as it’s a verb as well: acquire complete knowledge or skill in (an accomplishment, technique, or art). “Mistress” alas has too many bad connotations and meanings!


  2. Thanks for the review! Not going to lie, the cover had me for a moment, and if I came across this book on Amazon, the temptation to buy would be real. lol I appreciate the in-depth review. I would think that part of the skill of dyeing would be the ability to produce consistent color over and over again. Even if you’re dyeing yarn for yourself and not to sell, what if you get the most perfect color ever and then you can’t even reproduce it for yourself? That would drive me nuts. Given all the life change I just posted about on my own blog, your review came at a good time because I do want to get some good books about natural dyeing, and learn to do it right. 🙂


    • You *can* reproduce colours well enough to fool the eye IF you keep records, and if you know what you are doing is done correctly 🙂 Invest in some Jenny Dean books or the Boutrup/Ellis one. Ignore 99.9%% of what you seen online, as there are a hell of a lot more bad posts than there are good ones with correct information.

      Liked by 1 person

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