english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Alice & Co Patterns Georgie Dress

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

Pattern:  Georgie Dress (free) by Alice & Co Patterns

Time taken (excluding cutting out): 20 hours (including lots of alterations)

Fabric: Masson Mills cotton

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

When Alice & Co Patterns announced they would be releasing a free pattern based on Mary Quant’s Georgie Dress, to coincide with the recent Mary Quant exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, I got excited. I got even more excited to make my own version of the Georgie Dress when I realised that I had a fabric in my stash which was a reasonable approximation for the fabric used in the original dress held in the V&A’s collection.

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

My fabric is a cotton woven at Masson Mill in Matlock Bath. Mason Mill was a working cotton mill from 1783 until 1991 and now houses a museum (amongst other things) which produces a small quantity of fabric for demonstration and sale purposes. The fabric is sold very cheaply (a few pounds per metre) as offcuts or cut from the bolt. It’s narrow width due to being woven on traditional mechanised looms, but I managed to make this dress from three offcuts of the striped fabric (all 1 metre+) and a small amount of a purple cotton, also from Masson Mill, for the ruffles. The bodice is as per the pattern but I had to reduce the volume of fabric used in the skirt.

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

Although I rarely sew vintage, it was vintage patterns which first got me interested in garment sewing before I discovered indie designers. I still find vintage (and vintage inspired) designs visually really appealing, but often find them less appealing to actually sew. The construction of this dress took 20 hours (due to me making various alterations to fit and style), which is by far the longest I’ve spent on a sewing project since I started timing myself a couple of months ago, and by the end I just wanted it finished.

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

I started by cutting a size 12, but after basting together and trying on the bodice in my lining fabric (as helpfully recommended in the pattern instructions) I decided it was too big and trimmed my bodice pieces down to a size 10, grading to a 12 at the waist. I think I could have gone down a size again in the bodice, so suspect the pattern contains a reasonable amount of ease but it’s probably also the result of using a loosely woven cotton fabric.

My fabric choice wasn’t the easiest to work with. The striped fabric is loosely woven, slightly shiny (meaning it really shows any fit issues), and very lightweight. The purple fabric I used for the ruffles is slightly heavier weight which caused them to droop and pull on the bodice, which I mitigated by sewing them in place along the neckline seam. I was aiming for a retro look, but when I first tried this dress on the pattern and fabric combination looked very frumpy. Reducing the length of the skirt made a huge difference to making it look more 60s and less Victorian.

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

A sign to myself that I had moved beyond being a beginner sewer was when I became confident making alterations to sewing projects I wasn’t completely happy with. Before that point I would finish construction as per the pattern instructions, hang the offending garment in my wardrobe and then rarely wear it. I’m still going back to those previous sewing projects and fixing the aspects which annoy me, now that I’m better able to guess what it is I don’t like and how to fix it. I’ve actually been making small alterations this evening to two garments which I do wear but which annoy me a little bit every time. I started tap dancing classes recently, I’m really bad at tap and it makes me appreciate all the more having a hobby (sewing) where I do feel like I know what I’m doing and never feel completely at a loss – even if some projects do take more effort than anticipated.

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

I’m glad I got this dress to a point where I am happy wearing it, and if I make the pattern again I’ll try it in a more modern fabric for a completely different look.


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Woven Kielo

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts

I’ve had more time to sew recently as a result of both having a more relaxed job, and Phil starting an online undergraduate degree (in computer science) which is keeping him busy most evenings. Once Phil is settled down to study I’m turning to my sewing projects in the evenings much more often than I have previously, as opposed to watching Father Ted/Red Dwarf/Blackadder on repeat, which is what usually happens when we both have a free evening.

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts

With my additional sewing time, I’ve made some of those new release patterns which take the sewing community by storm and have to be started immediately, and I’ve also made some of those patterns which have been on my to-sew list for years, including the Kielo wrap dress which has been on my list since it was first released back in 2014.

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts

The particular motivation to get on with finally trying out the Kielo pattern was the offer of this cream and black Stretch Cotton Sateen Fabric from Minerva Crafts as part of their Maker Team. I remember the launch of their Blogger Network well so it was fun to contribute my first post, which is now live here. I actually managed to write about the construction of the dress, rather than my normal blog waffling (as evidenced here), so check out the MC blog for actual construction details.

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts

The fabric is a medium weight woven which emphasises the silhouette of the Kielo in a way I really like, although it needs a short jacket in cooler weather as paired with a longer one the silhouette looks a bit frumpy. After waiting 5 years to try the Kielo (and given that it took all of two evenings to sew) I think that another version at least is called for, and I’m keen to try the pattern in a lightweight knit for a different silhouette. I cut a straight size 10, reduced the length (by 9 inches) and consequently increased the height of the vent.

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts

These photos were taken during a recent trip to London after Phil won two free tickets to see The Who at Wembly Stadium! I’m well aware of the many ways I am lucky, but lately I’ve been lucky in the competition-winning sense. Long may it continue!

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts


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Maven Patterns Rochester Dress at the Confetti Fields

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

Recently, my mom told me about the Confetti Fields in Pershore, part of a farm which grows and sells dried flower petal confetti. For 10 days each year some of the fields are open to the public, and they have pop-up stalls selling cake and tea, and bouquets of the flowers. Clearly this was an irresistible blog photo opportunity, so when my mom and dad visited last weekend, me and Phil tagged along.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

In my enthusiasm to visit the fields I didn’t actually stop to think that Phil – who has severe hay fever – might not be so keen to walk through fields full of flowers, until he reminded me. He did get severe hay fever and it was not his favourite place, but he still took some rather nice photos of my new dress in between sneezes.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

This is the Rochester Dress from Maven Patterns. I bought the pattern direct from Maven Patterns at the Sewing for Pleasure show at Birmingham NEC in March, and picked this fabric to make it with, also at the show, from Higgs & Higgs. The fabric was in the bargain bin and was a total steal, I assume it’s a cotton but it has a linen-like ability to wrinkle seemingly two seconds after emerging from under the iron.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

The Rochester is a deceptively simple pattern, as it actually has a number of carefully designed details. I was assuming I would whip this dress up, but following the instructions and taking my time to sew neatly (I’m getting really good at actually taking care with my sewing now!), it took a couple of longish sittings.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

The first of the interesting features of the dress is the long curved hem, with side split and modest high-low hem. In addition to hem facing pieces, the pattern includes a template for top-stitching the hem, which I used and which resulted in very neat top stitching if I do say so myself. The pattern also intends for the sleeves to be finished with top stitching, and it looks great on the pattern but I couldn’t see any way to top stitch after the sleeves had been constructed with my fabric / machine, as I couldn’t easily have reached that far up the sleeve with the machine. I slip stitched my sleeve facing by hand, but the effect isn’t as interesting as the intended top stitching.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

The other main feature of the dress is the neckline. There are two neckline options included in the pattern, and I had intended to use the alternative (which is a simpler single row of elastic directly at the neckline) due to loving the effect on the pattern cover. I decided, however, that I ought to try the more unusual option and I’m really pleased with the result, which was very easy to achieve with a couple of rows of stitching and a small off-cut of elastic. There’s also a pleat at the back of the dress although it’s not very well shown off in these photos, or in this crease-loving fabric.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

I’d definitely like to make another Rochester dress in a crepe or viscose at some point, and I do think the details of this dress would be shown off to great effect in a solid colour.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

I’m really glad that I finally got around to sewing one of the Maven Patterns. I’ve seen some beautiful versions of the French Dart Pattern (including Susan Young’s) so that might be the next pattern I try, and I also fancy making myself an apron I’m happy to wear out to workshops (i.e. one which isn’t covered in stains from years of wear in the kitchen) using their Maria Apron pattern.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress


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Seamwork Loretta

Seamwork Loretta in Japanese Cotton

Ahh, how satisfying to find time to write an actual blog post. A lot of bloggers will post after some time away to say that they haven’t found time to blog, but have been doing lots of sewing. Well, I haven’t been doing either!

Over the last few months, my evenings and weekends have been spent catching up with work, preparing for the Sewing Weekender (and I didn’t take on as much in the run up as Kate or Rachel did), or with friends. Work has been especially busy, as I took on a new role at the University where I work at the same time as supporting Clearing (where students find a place with a University post A-level results). Clearing is all consuming while it’s underway, so that it not only sucks up all of your time, but also makes you into a total bore for a few months, as it is basically all you want to talk about! Sorry to everyone I bored to death talking about phone lines and call volumes…

Seamwork Loretta in Japanese Cotton

I’ve missed the acts of sewing and blogging, and I also missed being able to add to my wardrobe on a whim when I fancied something new to wear (I did order three new dresses from People Tree one evening in a sulk). Anyway, I’ve found a little time for blogging now, with sewing to follow soon.

Seamwork Loretta in Japanese Cotton

Phil is somewhat holiday obsessed and was really keen to go away for his birthday in July, but we compromised on a post-Sewing Weekender and post-Clearing long weekend in Porto in late August. Before we traveled I managed to finish this Seamwork Loretta blouse which I had started before work got crazy.

Seamwork Loretta in Japanese Cotton

This is View 1, tunic length, in the smallest size. I’m actually going to go back and cut this to top length (View 2), as I think it will be more versatile and suit me better; being small, I feel a bit drowned in the volume of fabric at this length. This top can be worn on or off the shoulders, but until the length is reduced I prefer it off the shoulders, otherwise it looks a bit proportionally unbalanced on me. One thing to note, the armholes are quite large and, when the blouse is worn on the shoulders, potentially a bit revealing.

Seamwork Loretta in Japanese Cotton

I purchased this fabric while in Tokyo earlier this year from the large Tomato store in Nippori Fabric District. It’s a lightweight cotton with a traditional-style Japanese print. I restricted my shopping to three fabrics while in Nippori, and am looking forward to sewing with the other two soon.

Seamwork Loretta in Japanese Cotton

Right, I’m off to catch up with another hobby I have neglected – social media and the newsletter for the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, which I support as a volunteer.

Seamwork Loretta in Japanese Cotton


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Liberty Inari Tee Dress

Named Inari Tee Dress in Liberty Cotton Lawn

This is my first Named Clothing Inari Tee Dress, sewn using a metre of Liberty Tana Lawn, purchased as a pre-cut length in a Liberty sale.

Named Inari Tee Dress in Liberty Cotton Lawn

This print reminds me of Japanese woodblock prints, so I made sure to pack it for my recent holiday to Seoul (where these photos were taken) and Tokyo. However, Karen notes on her vlog that the print was actually inspired by Mount Stuart in Scotland. A perfect excuse for a trip to Scotland next, methinks.

Named Inari Tee Dress in Liberty Cotton Lawn

This dress was one of those projects which, I decided lateish in the evening, I absolutely needed to make to wear to work the next morning. Sometimes those projects turn out ok despite me, other times not.

In this instance, I selected a size based on the wrong size chart (i.e. I took the finished measurements chart to be the size chart) and cut the dress two sizes too small (a size 4 instead of 8). The dress ended up thrown aside in disgust for a couple of weeks before I revisited and realised that it did still fit, if a little lacking in ease.

Named Inari Tee Dress in Liberty Cotton Lawn

As an aside, I made Phil walk towards that lovely purple wall, as a perfect photo background, until we got close and realised that it was a paper covering over the real wall…

Named Inari Tee Dress in Liberty Cotton Lawn

I’ll definitely cut a larger size next time, as there’s quite a bit of pressure from my hips on the seam at the top of the side slits in this version! In fact, I’m planning to go back and reinforce them to protect this dress.

Named Inari Tee Dress in Liberty Cotton Lawn

This is totally my style and I love how little fabric it requires, so there will definitely be more Inari Tee Dresses added to my wardrobe.

Named Inari Tee Dress in Liberty Cotton Lawn

Named Inari Tee Dress in Liberty Cotton Lawn

Named Inari Tee Dress in Liberty Cotton Lawn

Named Inari Tee Dress in Liberty Cotton Lawn

Named Inari Tee Dress in Liberty Cotton Lawn


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Sudley Blouse & Elsewhere

Megan Nielsen Sudley Blouse in Liberty Lawn

I recently had the opportunity to pattern test Megan Nielsen’s newest pattern, the Sudley Dress and Blouse. These photos are of the blouse I made using the test version of the pattern; Megan made a few changes to the final version of the pattern which it’s worth noting: reducing the size of the keyhole opening, and lowering the neckline.

Megan Nielsen Sudley Blouse in Liberty Lawn

The pattern is a loose fitting blouse or dress (with loads of variations), which is reversible. I’m wearing it here with the keyhole at the back (which is my personal preference in this version), but it can also be worn at the front. I’ve included the peter pan collar, but it can be left off for a sleeker silhouette.

Megan Nielsen Sudley Blouse in Liberty Lawn

I managed to squeeze this test version out of a small piece of fabric from my stash. I bought the fabric as a remnant from Birmingham Rag Market, but I’m pretty sure it’s Liberty tana lawn. I previously used the same fabric to make a Branson Top.

Because it needs to be loose fitting in order to be reversible, the Sudley pattern would actually suit a drapey fabric better than this cotton lawn – which results in a more boxy silhouette (Megan makes the same recommendation in her launch post). For my second version, I’m thinking a solid-coloured silk, or nice quality poly, with just the keyhole opening and ties.

Megan Nielsen Sudley Blouse in Liberty Lawn

For reference I made Version 1 in a size XS.

Megan Nielsen Sudley Blouse in Liberty Lawn

Elsewhere

♥ In other news, I was really thrilled to be selected as a prize winner in Hannah Fettig’s recent #WeWearKnitbot Fashion Show. The competition was to style an outfit, which said something about you, around a garment made using one of Hannah’s patterns. As it happened, I had already made the Hancock cardigan as part of my One Year One Outfit ensemble. Hannah has created a gallery of all the entries, which is great for inspiring your next knitting project!

♥ Hannah is also hosting a knit-along on instagram during May, for her Point of View Vest. It’s a lovely summer pattern, designed to be knit in linen. I have Blacker Yarns Lyonesse left over from knitting Hancock, so I’m going to cast on using it – tempting as it is to buy new yarn!

Megan Nielsen Sudley Blouse in Liberty Lawn

♥ The free pattern for this year’s Shetland Wool Week, Crofthoose by this year’s patron Ella Gordon is totally adorable.

♥ If you live local to me (Birmingham, England), there are some cool local wooly events coming up: Yarnigham, a new yarn festival in July, TOFTFest to celebrate ten years of TOFT alpaca farm and yarn company in August, and Debbie Bliss will be at City Knits in Bourneville on Yarn shop Day (April 30).

Megan Nielsen Sudley Blouse in Liberty Lawn

♥ It’s Fashion Revolution Week, next week (18-24 April), and Emily from In The Folds is organising an online/instagram dialogue: Makers for Fashion Revolution.

♥ Safia Minney has released a new book, Slow Fashion: Aesthetics Meets Ethics. I’ve only just started reading, but it looks like a really interesting mix of profiles, interviews and essays. You can currently get a free copy if you spend over £70 at People Tree (with code SFBOOK1, until April 24).

♥ A new (online-only) fabric shop has opened local to me, Adam Ross Fabrics. They are offering 20% off first purchase with code, ENGLISHGIRLUK, no minimum spend.

 


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Solar Dyeing with Fungi & Biden

Natural Dyeing with Toadstools

When I started experimenting with natural dyeing, I initially assumed that I wouldn’t have much luck in the UK with solar dyeing, particularly in the winter, due to the fact there isn’t all that much sun.

Natural Dyeing with Toadstools

However, I decided to give it a try with some fungi that sprout in our lawn every Autumn. These are fly agaric, a common British/European mushroom, which is mildly toxic and was used in the past for medicinal and religious hallucinogenic purposes. I really like seeing them pop up in our garden as they are so vibrant, but they don’t last for long as slugs love to eat them.

Natural Dyeing with Toadstools

Here’s one that the slugs had already made a good start on!

Natural Dyeing with Toadstools

Due to the toxicity of the fungi I didn’t fancy boiling them for dyeing and releasing any fumes, so attempted solar dyeing. I started the fungi off with some tap water in two jam jars, since these were the only containers I had lying around at home, and I thought if I delayed the slugs would have eaten every last bit. You can see that these jars wouldn’t be any use for dyeing though, since there is no room for any fibre.

Natural Dyeing with Toadstools

Natural Dyeing with Toadstools

I shortly moved the fungi into a large cheap glass jar, purchased from Tiger, and topped it up with additional tap water.

Solar Natural Dyeing with Fly Agaric Fungi

Since I previously harvested my biden plants and completed one batch of biden dyeing, quite a large number of flowers had bloomed. So I decided to pop some Biden flowers in a second jar for solar dyeing.

Solar Natural Dyeing with Biden Flowers

Solar Natural Dyeing with Biden Flowers

For the best chance of sunlight, I placed the jars on top of our shed (helpfully there is a small shelf over the door which was perfect). I left them alone for a couple of weeks, by which time both jars had achieved a decent colour.

Solar Natural Dyeing with Fly Agaric Fungi and Biden Flowers

At this point I added a small section of pre-mordanted yarn (Rowan Big Wool, a 100% merino wool) and pre-mordanted unbleached cotton into each jar. I could have removed the biden flowers at this point (to prevent them getting tangled in the yarn) but didn’t bother. I did remove most of the fungi as it was already starting to look a little moldy.

Solar Natural Dyeing with Fly Agaric Fungi and Biden Flowers

I read somewhere that a layer of wax on top of the jars can help to avoid mold. I attempted to create this by melting some wax on the surface of each jar. However, I wouldn’t recommend this approach. The liquid was still able to seep through gaps in the wax, and when I came to empty the jars removing the wax was a total pain.

Solar Natural Dyeing with Fly Agaric Fungi and Biden Flowers

Solar Natural Dyeing with Fly Agaric Fungi and Biden Flowers

Solar Dyeing with Biden

I left the fibre in the jars for another week or two before emptying out the contents. The pictures below show the fibre on immediate removal from the jars, and then hung on the line after a wash.

Solar Dyeing with Biden

Solar Dyeing with Toadstool

You can see that I achieved a reasonable pink on the yarn with the fungi, but it had almost no effect on the cotton. The biden, on the other hand, achieved a strong colour on the yarn and cotton. The patchy effect on the cotton is due to how I squashed the fabric into the jar.

Solar Dyeing with Toadstool and Biden

Solar Dyeing with Toadstool and Biden

I have some natural dyeing planned for today – with some precious British silk – so wish me good results.

P.S. There is a beautiful post on dyeing with mushooms on the Folk Fibres blog.


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Polo Shirt Dress

It’s my birthday today, and while Phil cooks me dinner I have just enough time for a quick post about this self-drafted polo shirt dress I made this summer.

Self Drafted Polo Shirt Dress

I’ve always loved polo shirts and polo shirt dresses, and have had one or two in my wardrobe since I was a teenager. However, my wardrobe has been without one for the last couple of years as I have pretty much stopped buying RTW and have never seen the right fabric (cotton pique) on sale before. So, when I spotted this fabric for sale on Goldhawk Road earlier this year I knew I needed to make myself a polo shirt dress.

Self Drafted Polo Shirt Dress

The dress is self drafted and is based on a RTW polo shirt dress, which I may have taken a few measurements from in the shop… As with all of the RTW polo shirt dresses I’ve owned it doesn’t feature any darts or shaping. I rushed the construction a little bit, so would like to get some more fabric and make a neater version at some point. I’d also like to create a short polo shirt (as opposed to dress) version.

Self Drafted Polo Shirt Dress

As you can see the construction is pretty simple, it’s a single piece at the front and back, with short set-in sleeves. I folded a strip of the fabric to create the cuffs. The RTW polo shirt examples I looked at had the collar as one piece, cut on a single layer of fabric. I kept a one piece collar but stitched two layers of fabric together to give it a bit more body. When I make another I’ll add a layer of interfacing too as it’s still a little floppy.

Self Drafted Polo Shirt Dress

I added a partial button placket. It was a pretty easy feature to figure out, but See Kate Sew has since posted a tutorial for one.

Self Drafted Polo Shirt Dress

These photos were taken in Paris during our holiday there in September, and were taken in the Saint-Pierre area very close to the fabric shops.

Self Drafted Polo Shirt Dress


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Indigo Dyeing

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

I recently got the chance to spend a Saturday in my garden dyeing with indigo. A mixture of fibres went into my indigo dye vat, including:

A lingerie kit purchased from Merckwaerdigh. I purchased it with the intention of dyeing it, so selected a nude and copper kit, which was the lightest coloured kit in the shop at the time.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Three pieces of fabric. A small square of Ikea unbleached cotton (back), Paul Smith cotton shirting purchased during the Sewing for Pleasure show at the NEC back in March (right), and organic silk from Majestic Textiles (left).

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

I also added a small amount of yarn to the pot, including my first attempt at hand spun yarn (left), 100% wool aran (centre), and cotton yarn (right). Indigo is a substantive dye, meaning that fibres don’t need to be mordanted in advance of dyeing (woo hoo!) so all I did to prepare these fabics and yarns was wash them as I normally would (i.e. cottons in the washing machine, silk and yarn by hand), and then leave them soaking in clean water before adding them to the dye pot.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

I purchased the natural indigo I used from Fabric Treasury. I bought it in ‘cake’ form, so it arrived as a solid block inside the tub. In order to dye with indigo (create an indigo vat), oxygen needs to be removed from the vat before fibres are added using a reducing agent. There are multiple alternative methods of preparing an indigo vat, but I chose to use the method described by Linda Rudkin in Natural Dyes which uses washing soda and a reducing agent such as colour run remover. I purchased both the washing soda and colour run removed from Wilko.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Here is the indigo I chipped off the cake for the dye pot. Only 10g (two teaspoons) is required for up to 400g of fibres, so it goes a long way. I am actually being good and wearing (blue) rubber gloves in the photo below, although I have a bad habit of taking them off. I did end up with blue fingers by the end of the day.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural indigo has a strong smell, so I’d recommend dyeing outside if possible. I purchased a cheap one-plate hob to allow me to do this. I was careful to keep an eye on it the whole time it was turned on, in case any curious neighbourhood cats got too close.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

To dye 400 grams of fibre the process is:

♥ Thoroughly dissolve 50g washing soda in 250ml of boiling water (this should be in a separate bowl, not your main pan).

♥ Mix 10g (two teaspoons) of indigo with 30ml of warm water to create a paste, and then add to the washing soda solution, stirring until dissolved.

♥ Fill your dye pan with 4 litres of water and heat to 50ºC (it is important the temperature does not exceed 60ºC), then gently add the indigo solution and carefully stir in.

♥ I removed my pan from the heat at this point, wrapping it in a towel. Then I sprinkled 25g (or one packet) of colour run remover over the surface of the pan, covered it and left it to stand for 60 minutes.

♥ After 60 minutes, I added my pre-wetted fibres to the pan. To avoid introducing oxygen into the pan, I first squeezed the fibres to remove excess water and lowered them in slowly. Fibres should be fully immersed below the surface, so I weighted those that refused to stay down!

♥ After a few minutes I removed my fibres from the pan with a slotted spoon. When removing fibres you want to avoid drips as much as possible to avoid adding oxygen.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

While in the pan the fibres appear green, and turn blue as they are removed and exposed to oxygen. Fibres can be returned to the pan if you aren’t happy with the initial colour achieved.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Once removed from the pan, I rinsed the fibres and hung them on the line to dry, before giving them a full wash (in the machine for the cottons, and by hand for the silk and yarn).

As you can see in the pictures below, I achieved a mottled effect on my fabrics as a result of adding them to the pan scrunched up, and placing large amounts of fibre in the pan. I like the mottled effect, but a more consistent colour could be achieved by ensuring that all areas of the fabric are exposed to the dye, or returning the fabrics to the pan multiple times.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

I really love the finished colour of the lace, the nude sections dyed beautifully. The copper sections didn’t take the colour at all, but I think they look great with the blue.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Unbleached cotton, before and after.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Organic silk, before and after.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

If you’re thinking about trying natural dyeing I’d recommend a substantive dye such as indigo, since removing the need to mordant fibres makes the dyeing process much quicker. Also, the additional ingredients required (washing soda and colour run remover) are easy and cheap to obtain.Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo


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A Naturally Dyed Wardrobe: Biden

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

Last weekend I got the chance to try dyeing with one of the dye plants I grew from seed in  my garden. Of the plants I chose to grow, my biden and marigold plants have done really well. The teasel plants are looking very healthy (the leaves are huge), but don’t yet have any seed heads, which are the section required for dyeing. I’ve had no luck at all with my bee balm and woad plants (only one tiny woad plant survived) so I’ll try again next year and see if I get better results.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

The biden flower heads are the section used for dyeing, so I harvested all the current flower heads, leaving the flower buds for future dyeing / pollinators. I followed the biden dyeing recipe from Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess. The recipe recommends a weight ration of 1:1, e.g. the same weight in flower heads as in fibre. I didn’t have enough flower heads to match the weight of the fibre I wanted to dye, so used approximately 25 grams of biden flowers for just over 100 grams of fibre. As a result, I didn’t achieve as deep an orange as I have seen other dyers achieve, but I was still pretty impressed by the results.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

To create the dye, I placed the biden flowers in a large stainless steel pan with enough water to cover my fibre, and slowly brought the water to approximately 70-80ºC over a one hour period. While the pan was heating up, I placed the fibre I planned to dye in a bucket of cold water, so that it was suitably wet through before being added to the dye pan.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

Because natural dyeing can be smelly and messy, I’ve been doing my dyeing outside using a small portable stove.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

After an hour, the water in my pan had taken on a orange colour. At this point the plant matter can be strained out, but I left it in the pan, as I wasn’t too concerned about plant matter getting tangled in my fibre.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

I then reduced the heat to 50-70ºC and added my pre-wetted fibre, maintaining the temperature for approximately an hour. After an hour my fibre had clearly taken on the dye so I removed it from the pan and hung it on the line for around thirty minutes before rinsing the yarn and washing the fabric.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

You can see that the water in the pan was a much lighter shade once the fibre had been dyed and removed.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

In addition to a selection of yarns, I used the biden to dye my Paprika Patterns’ Onyx Shirt; made in a cotton double gauze purchased online from Etsy shop Fabric Treasury. I previously dyed the Shirt with paprika, but hadn’t mordanted the fabric in advance of dyeing it, and after a few washes the colour had completely faded.

This time I mordanted the shirt in advance of dyeing using an alum and washing soda recipe from The Craft of Natural Dyeing by Jenny Dean. I dyed some cotton yarn at the same time (the two palest yarns shown on the right in the photos below). To mordant the cotton (which weighed approximately 100g) I dissolved 25g of alum into a large pan of hot water, and then slowly added 6g of washing soda dissolved in water. I added my (pre-wetted) cotton and slowly heated the pan to 82-88ºC over approximately one hour. I then removed the pan from the heat and left the cotton to soak overnight. I gave the cotton a good rinse in cold water before adding it to the dye pan.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

I also dyed three wool yarns, shown from left to right:

♥ 100% wool DK (TOFT Alpaca, in Oatmeal)
♥ 100% merino wool chunky (Rowan Big Wool)
♥ 75% merino / 20% silk / 5% cashmere DK (Sublime)

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

I mordanted the wool yarns using a recipe shared by my guild. I prepared small skeins, tied with figure-of-eight ties in several places, and soaked these overnight. I dissolved 8g of alum and 7g cream of tartar (available in the baking section of supermarkets) for every 100g of fibre in a pan with a small amount of warm water. I topped up the pan with enough water to cover my fibre and added the yarn. I put the pan on a low heat so that it reached simmering (approximately 82-88ºC) over an hour, and then maintained this heat for a further hour. I then removed the pan from the heat and left the yarn to soak overnight. I rinsed the yarn in cold water before adding it to the dye pan.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, Double Gauze Dyed with Biden Flowers

Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, Double Gauze Dyed with Biden Flowers

Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, Double Gauze Dyed with Biden Flowers

Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, Double Gauze Dyed with Biden Flowers