Category Archives: Ecoprints and Natural Dyes

fifty shades of orange

HA!!!!!!!!!!! After 7 years and some grey hairs, i’m finally getting my “true” oranges in natural dyeing.

Annato powder used on several fibre types

Annatto results from 2010—-corrections for silk types added today— i was still learning about silk, as i’d never used it before in *anything*, believe it or not!

The “Way Back Machine” aka my own memory dredged these up, from the first few months of my natural dye experiments. I had Jenny Dean’s book “Wild Colour” (STILL my go-to bible for all things natural, along with her other books), but could find only Annatto powder in the “International” aisle of the local StoopidStore. It was cheap in one sense, i think 50cents for a package, but of course i look at the weight (10 gr!!!!), and wonder if it was “cut” too with any waste plant material, and understand why i had to use 3 packages of it to get the results above! Not so cheap after all, except in terms of colour depth.

Pale, but pretty, i still like these shades, but now that i’m getting more serious (ie FOLLOWING THE INSTRUCTIONS–though there’s always room for experimentation), i lucked into actual Annatto seeds, thanks to my local dye and textile friend, Susan, who got these for me. And the cost is pretty much the same per OUNCE! By the way, if you really really REALLY like orange shades, you can buy Annatto seeds on AliBaba by THE METRIC TON for a mere 700US.

I could see the difference the minute i added a miniscule amount of soda ash to the bath. I don’t even remember using this that wayback time.


Of course, cloth ALWAYS dries a lighter shade, but this bodes well.


And after an overnight soak (recommended, seeds left in, though they can be taken out also):

Above: threads, left top silk, left bottom overdyed pale grey silk, right cotton

Below, top previously madder dyed silk, bottom white silk:

Below, previously madder dyed cotton doily:

Below, the results all together:

Top left, gallnut extract pre-mordant, below unmordanted cotton, unmordanted silk. Top right, previously madder dyed cotton with matching doily, below previously madder and tansy dyed silk, bottom centre, unmordanted white cotton flannellette. Annatto doesn’t really “need” a mordant, but given the latest session of pre-mordanting craploads of cotton in readiness for Res 2017, i hucked a piece of gallnut extract mordanted cotton in as well, just to see if there was any difference.

MUCHLY better-er than 2010!!!!!!

I flung in two pieces of silk and some silk thread separately *after* the cotton was done, as different fibres have unique uptakes, and animal fibres grab the colour first. Best to take advantage of that after the cellulose fibres have had their turn–i figure it’s one way to “exhaust” the bath as well;) (Two separate baths if you want to do both in one session.) One piece had previously been dyed with madder over tansy, one was white and un-mordanted.

I plan on doing some other tests with various modifiers and post mordants as well, so who knows what shades i’ll get in the end? And some/most are slated for overdyeing with other colours.


EDIT: This dye material is INCREDIBLY POTENTLY STRONG. It immediately stained my stirrer, and at 3TBSP per 3L water, i’m pretty sure that next time, i’ll use much less, perhaps even “thirding” the amount of seeds to water. Of course i got a LOT of dyed fabric from this pot!!!!!! (I also did not cook and grind into a paste, as some do, as the seeds gave up their colour readily without a messy extra step. I suspect this was the influence of the soda ash–before i tossed that in, the seeds just laid sullenly at the bottom of the water, with no bleeding.) And sthere’s still a lot of colour left in the bath, so i’ll decant that into something dark and airtight, dry the seeds, and store all for the next use.


However, it can be used as a base for other colours, and if they are substantive, or more resistant to fading, can hold the colour better.

And note, supposedly, annatto used as a food colouring has been linked to certain childhood behaviour disorders, and can cause an anaphylactic reaction in some!!!! As always, just because it’s Natural, doesn’t mean it’s safe for Everyone.



FybreSpace, the Shop, open for business again

I’m clearing shelves, as i make room for new work, and new fabrics to be created during my upcoming summer residency, so please do head over to the shop. I’ve posted information in the side bar there, about my policies and shipping info. If you have ANY problems, PLEASE let me know as soon as possible, so i can fix them 🙂

As i dig out fabrics, they will be listed. It takes time to photograph, do all the photo and writing editing, and generate the code for the post, so please be patient with me. At the moment there are “story fabrics” with deliberate design in mind, but some ecoprints will be added as i find them!


residency plans again

This year, i decided to take the 3 month slot at ACAD for Contextural’s summer residency. It usually takes me a week or two while there to really get into the swing of it anyways (and i always regret not having more time), but i figure for the extra money it will cost (minimal in comparison to a one month slot), i might as well be really serious this year, develop some new skills, brush up on old ones, and truly enjoy myself —*and* expand the cloth arsenal.

a telling sign

Continue your journey

(This also means there will be LOTS of fabrics available in the shop, for my faithful followers and customers! Note: there are a few listings going in there within the week, from cloth made last year.)

I’m re-reading my faithful dye Bibles (all of Jenny Dean‘s books), and using highlighters, post-its and scribbled side notes to brush up, and focus on new things–and old things tried and tested that i haven’t done before. I’m collecting fabrics, prepping fabrics with mordants and stitch, making my lists, assembling the suitcase of necessaries, and getting more and more excited!

This year again, i’ll be working with my old faves of indigo, rust and potassium permanganate, along with dyes i haven’t had much success with, like madder. Madder has always fought me, giving only oranges and peaches, and the occasional oink pink (though i kinda like that fingerslip “oink” descriptor! 😉 ). The only time i ever got red was from the cotton bag used to hold the dye stuff, a tiny 4″ square, way way back. I do love the corals and oranges though so am also going to work with annato, tansy and rhubarb again. This year i also want THREADS as part of the stash! I’ve done a few along the way, but except for the indigo, never really dyed enough to be worthwhile.

I’ll be doing a “regular” indigo vat at home, and hoping to start a 1-2-3 vat at the school with henna–i like the more green tone of this one. (Or maybe it was just greener because of so many using it and dipping strange things in it…….Yoshiko Wada workshop in August of 2014)


I’m planning on doing some ecoprinting again, something i haven’t done much of in the last 2 years, as it A. started to bore me, and B. everyone else is doing so much more beauty than i could. Of course, all those workshops that some can take do help, and yes i am SUPREMELY jealous. I think i’ve found some ground to stand on though, and will try some new things. If you learn something new every day, you know you’re not dead!

I want to try more shibori, and pole wrapping, more combinations of things, and more deliberate placements of dye and adjuncts like rust and leaf.

I shall be donning my goggles, rubber apron and tin foil hat, as the Mad Textile Scientist makes a long anticipated re-appearance.

Of course, i always remember words of wisdom imparted at my first res orientation back in 2011: “Make a plan, half it, half it again, and expect to not get even that much done.”



Listings soon in the Shop!

As i have mentioned before, FybreSpace no longer exists on BigCartel, but you can buy here. Please do sign up for email notifications of new posts, if you will.

All of these have been washed and pressed, are cotton, and having been stored for almost a year, are nicely cured. Each listing will have its own post, as Blogger and Paypal fight otherwise. I will be listing through this week, and will publish all when ready to go.

The possibilities with these fabrics are infinite. Don’t be afraid to cut up, cut holes, slash, machine stitch, hand stitch, applique or piece into other works. It’s fabric after all, and while i view them as semi-precious, they can be treated as any other fabric!




goodiesThanks to dear Susan who organized getting all these beauties for me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Posted by on March 2, 2017 in Days of Honey, Ecoprints and Natural Dyes


“dyeing when hell freezes over”

I ordered madder seeds from Salt Spring Island (BC), and casting around, found little info on growing in a colder clime. Fortunately, the natural dye group on FB has some experienced growers, and some of those are in zones similar to mine–or tougher!

I suppose buying these seeds and hoping that in three years i can harvest my own reds might be a bit delusional. Calgary has a shorter growing season, colder nights (even in the summer) and hard winters, but for the price of 6.00 (including shipping), what the hell. Never know until you try. The first step will be to germinate in the Dye Dungeon, under lights, and in sand. Hoofies crossed that the seeds are viable! Though i have yet to get a true red from any commercial madder i’ve used, i keep trying!)

I also have to find my woad seeds–i did grow some the year before the flood, but alas, after the move to the shithole, the pot froze under a roof run off and the poor things didn’t survive. Specifically grown for cold zones by Sarah of Joybilee Farms in BC, i put the darn remaining seeds somewhere “safe” and haven’t found them yet. (I don’t think she sells them anymore either…)

The old indigo pot remains downstairs in the Dye Dungeon also—haven’t used it in a year, but i’m not only hoping to revive it, but to start a more “organic” vat as well. And ordering seeds for these as well…) Picking up a load of calx, henna and other assorted dye goodies tomorrow, including some proper mordants in the form of gallnut and soy!

Hope springs eternal this first day of March!


winter dye adventures, part 3, weird science

Well, mixed results! Surprising results. Chemistry is very obviously at play here, in the purest sense of the word. Playing with me: blues and purples from the privet berries showing in the pot, dark greys and deep greens when they come out and are still wet, drying to shades of celadon, ghosted sea blue, odd mixes with tansy and madder (all on silk hab), wonderful jades in the threads (silk and wool), brilliant with soda ash modifier. Iron didn’t do much at all, not saddening or shifting shade deeper.

Leaves and stalks(twigs/fine branches) hardly worth it, a really pale yellow on the threads,which surprised me, because they are usually the more reliable dye source.  I threw those into the berry pot too, as they are so wishy-washy as to be pointless.

Berries? Sort of a greeny grey green, like faded Celadon (?). ImPOSSible to photograph, so here, like this:



Updated as i write this post: my expensive DSLR camera could not capture the colours, no matter what i did in terms of lighting conditions, but the cheap camera on the cellphone worked. More weird science, go figure.


BUT, will they be lightfast?

Regardless of all this, i probably won’t be dyeing with privet again. It’s toxic, it’s expensive and it has to be imported, even if the importing is from BC 🙂 Still, it was a nice little interlude, and learning experience in the wintery season of Calgary! And after a couple of weeks, if they don’t fade, they will be added to the thread and scrap arsenal.

Now back to the monumental stitching.


Posted by on February 17, 2017 in Dyeing, Ecoprints and Natural Dyes, privet