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Category Archives: Eco dyeing


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It’s been a long time coming but I think Spring may very well be here.

Not that we can plant anything out of doors until the full moon in June {local wisdom}.

A farmer recently told me “it isn’t spring until the frogs freeze over 3 times”. I’d never heard that way of telling spring, but we’ve had a foot and a half of snow and a good frost last night so sooner than later spring will be here for good.

Side Yard last fall

Lovely trees … lawn – no gardens!

I love our new place but unfortunately the previous owners were not gardeners. Not a speck of garden anywhere! I find that horrifying but I suppose some people like lawns. However I’ve read some interesting articles lately about turfless-ness and the effects of lawns on our fauna.

Populations of all of our migratory song birds are dropping and there is no end in sight. American Goldfinch populations have dropped 6.2% per year during the last 30 years. Swainson’s Thrush populations have dropped 8.4% per year over that same period. These declines are not exceptional, but unfortunately, representative. Similar declines are being experienced by all of our migratory song birds.”

Plant Native

Restoring the Landscape with Native Plants

Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens

{Most of the pages are for the States and don’t really apply for here though. If you know of any local pages please leave a link in the comments}

So seeing as I don’t particularly care much for lawns and noisy mowers {the town won’t let me have a goat mower} I’ve decided to try my hand at Native plants for the garden. This also will contribute to the dye pot in new and interesting ways.

Up here I’m a Canada Zone 2, basically sub arctic, which is not very promising. I’ve been researching plants that will survive up here and hopefully I’ll be able to add some native plants through out the year.

I found Andy’s Northern Ontario Wildflowers, an extensive list of native plants that grow around here. I don’t know how they’ll dye up but I enjoy a good experiment.

Do you have any suggestions for my new dye garden? I’d love to hear what’s worked for you.


The Market

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The Market

Coffee Dyed

Handmade cotton doilies Cotton doily Doily Coffee Doily Coffee dyed doilies Solar dyed cotton doily using coffee grounds Solar dyed with coffee Coffee dyed cotton doily Coffee dyed cotton Coffee dyed

Slow Wardrobe Inspiration – Boro

A little slow wardrobe inspiration.

Silk and cotton han juban with some hemp thread stitching from Sri Textilles, New York

Silk and cotton han juban with some hemp thread stitching from Sri Threads, New York

 When most people see a rip or hole in their clothing they immediately discard it, viewing the item as no longer fit to wear.

Hand Stitched Sashiko Farmer's Boro Jacket, handspun and hand-loomed cotton fabrics, early 1900s From

Hand Stitched Sashiko Farmer’s Boro Jacket, handspun and hand-loomed cotton fabrics, early 1900s

For the peasants in Japan a couple hundred years ago this was not an option. Clothing was simply too valuable to discard because of a hole.

Rag sellers would travel through rural Japan selling bits and scraps of cotton. The women of farming and fishing families would purchase these scraps and use them to mend their homespun items.

Patch over patch, stitch over stitch, generation passing on to generation.

A sleeping kimono intended for warmth - often lined and stuffed with okuso, the leftovers from the hemp yarn making process. Used like a duvet. From Sri Textiles, New York

A sleeping kimono intended for warmth – often lined and stuffed with okuso, the leftovers from the hemp yarn making process. Used like a duvet.
From Sri Threads, New York

Boro comes from the “mottainai” sensibility, or the idea that the object is too good to waste.

Boro Shimacho

Boro Shimacho – Strips of cloth stitched into an old ledger for boro inspiration.
From Sri Threads

How long will your clothing last?

Antique kimono, boro mending with sashiko stitch

Antique kimono, boro mending with sashiko stitch

For more information and examples of Boro

Onion Skin

You may remember this picture from awhile ago – part of my Silk Scarves post.

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To see the end result please visit Onion Skin in The Market.

The Market

Hand dyed using wild blueberry juice.

Here is the first addition to The Market, my brand new little shop.

Wild Blueberries and Cream is a gorgeous crepe de chine silk scarf, lovingly dyed and prepared for you.

Spring is Almost Here

I’m hoping at least :)

March 20th technically speaking is the first day of Spring.

Up here we’ll probably still have 3 feet of snow on the ground and it could be -25 again.

However some of you have crocuses and daffodils already.

In thinking happy thoughts, including sunshine and crocuses and rubber boots, I’m opening The Market.

Tune in on the 20th for the first addition.

Silk Scarves

Crepe de Chine scarves in the window, utilizing the sun for solar dyeing.

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Above: Red and yellow onions skins wrapped tightly in the scarf and then stuffed into a Mason jar.

Below: Pomegranate to the right. Cranberry to the left.

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Washed Purple Plum

Purple Plum

I’m amazed at how green the purple plum stayed. It seems to be a pretty solid dye. We’ll see how well it lasts though. 

Eco Dyed Cotton purple plum dyebath Eco Dyed Men's Cotton Shirt

Washed Cotton

Blueberry Eco Dyed Cotton

Some of the blueberry dyed cotton shirts after washing. It was hard to get a really good shot of the colour. Definitely much more blue then red purple. But I think that’s because I washed them in the machine and town water is full of chlorine. The red purple probably would have stayed if I had washed it in distilled water. 

Eco bundled with wild blueberry Eco Dyed Men's Cotton Shirts Blueberry Dye Bath Alum mordanted cotton with blueberry dyebath

Botanical Stitching

Floral embroidery using vintage darning thread on crab apple eco dyed cotton. 

Floral Embroidery using vintage cotton darning thread Stitching and Dyeing 029 Stitching and Dyeing 030 Stitching and Dyeing 031

A great way to reuse my husband’s lovely white cotton shirts when the collar finally gives out. 

Red Currants

More stitching on cotton for the quilt of many pieces. 

Good memories are involved with this piece. I copied it {not perfectly} from a hand coloured print by George Brookshaw found in his Pomona Britannica.

But it’s the red currants that are tied to happy childhood memories. 

Red Currants

My sister, 3 years younger, would spend hours and hours sitting in front the currant bushes at the end of our lawn picking them off one by one. She was always little compared to me, much more delicate in build. I remember her face, with her scrunched up little nose when she smiled, as she brought her little bowl in. 

Stitching and Dyeing 008

We had white and red currants.

I don’t remember eating them.

Maybe because they were her special treat after all the time it took her to pick them. There were never enough to dry or harvest for baking. So they remained hers, the spoils of her toil. 

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I love the red of this particular thread. It looks juicy.

With -40 outside, without the windchill, it’s nice to have lovely summer memories. 

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My sister, and currants. 

yesterday was hectic

Hence only one project picture of portly pillows poked up precociously.

Ok, a pillow can’t be precocious…

I think.

Vintage cotton napkins, rust and botanically dyed, cut up and quilted

Moving on.

These are some of the cotton napkins dyed, deconstructed and then reconstructed.

It all started with a book.

I found it at the library.

I was never particularly interested in quilts. I don’t usually like the colour combinations or design. A little too grandma fussy for my taste sometimes.

Though I will say check out Kirsten Jane. She first got me with a post on shoes that she made. But I loved her Improve Patchwork!

Nine patch pillow, rust dyed and eco printed

Back to the book.

The title was – Around The Quilt Frame: Stories and Musings on the Quilter’s Craft by Kari A. Cornell.

A Great Quilting Truth of the Universe by Lisa Boyer made me laugh out loud, uncontrollably. It is me and my sister in quilt land.

It was funny. Though not a quilter, many of the stories touched on things that I definitely could relate too. Unfinished object takeovers. Husband’s in fabric stores. Hoarding tiny scraps, of bits of fabric, because you hate to waste any, because maybe you’ll use it, someday.

The stories about the history of the quilts was particularly fascinating. You used what you had – feed sacks, clothing, bits and scraps. Whatever you could find, or beg and barter for. Each piece meant something; it was a memory, something beautiful that only you and it knew. Pieces of the dress that made you feel incredible, your child’s first piece of clothing, a shirt of your husband’s that always had good memories attached to it . 

Rarely, if ever, could you go to the fabric store and perfectly match prints and solids in monochromatic or analogous splendor, double checking your colour dominance was just right.

This is my kind of quilting. Beauty carefully saved and treasured. Beauty purpose built from unmatched unknowns.

vintage cotton napkins, rust and eco dyed

Because that’s why I love natural dyeing so much. You start in and just enjoy as you go. Sometimes it’s what you expected, sometimes it’s better then what you expected, and sometimes you have no idea what happened but “that’s pretty ugly, what will I do with it now?” Each piece reminds you of the walk you took to gather those leaves or flowers. What you were talking about when you gathered that particular rusty bit. The scent of the dye pot. The truth in colour.  

So I thought I would try quilting with some of my recent dye batches. The Rusty 9 Patch Pillow turned out quite well, I thought. My starburst on the other hand…

But then I read an interesting post by Wendy Feldberg over at Threadborne which she appears to have taken off. She was talking about creating with her grandson and the joys of imperfection, seeing things through a child’s eyes and just being happy with something you’ve made – even if it’s not perfect. I appreciated the perspective. This definitely is an Imperfect Starburst. But I’m leaving it like that. In fact, I made it up into a lovely little tossing pillow – perfect for beaning someone in the head in a pillow fight. 

Cotton, rust and eco dyed, quilted, starburst, 9 patch, pillow

And we thoroughly enjoy it just as it is!

Quilted starburst pillow. Rust and eco dyed. Vintage cotton napkins.

Purple Plum














Crab Apple

Natural colour crab apple dye pink



Iron Mordant



Eco dyed, natural colour, no mordant




No mordant

Botanical Dye Project – Cotton. Part 2.

Cotton, alum mordant

Blueberry, crab apple, purple plum, coffee and cinnamon.

Cotton, eco dyed, alum mordanted. Purple plum, cinnamon, coffee, blueberryFree form cotton crochet.

Cotton, alum mordant

Top to bottom: Coffee, cinnamon, purple plum, crab apple, blueberry.

Cotton, alum mordant

Cinnamon, purple plum, blueberryCinnamon, purple plum, crab apple.

Snow and Projects

Cochrane Ontario

We should expect the snow, and earlier because we’re in the North now. I always hope that it will take longer for it to finally get here though.

As much as I don’t enjoy the cold, it is beautiful!

Iron infused leaves on alum mordanted cotton

Leaves from a bush outside {unknown} on vintage cotton napkins. Iron bath for about an hour. 

Knotted and soaked for a couple days

Men’s Cotton Shirt pulled apart, this is the back. Knotted a couple times and then soaked in coffee for several days. 

Men's Cotton Shirt mordanted in alum, wrapped with raspberry leaves then boiled in iron bath

Section of Men’s Cotton Shirt, alum mordanted, with raspberry leaf prints.