I have had an amazing few days in Scotland at the Colour in Cloth conference. Day one I listened to some amazing research presentations. Day two was much more practical and I got the chance to attend two workshops. One of which was natural dyes which is something I have wanted to experiment with for a while. Science has never been my strong point but it is amazing how much more interesting it is when the intended outcome is as desirable as these were. The workshop introduced me natural adjective dye-baths and methods on producing aqueous extraction of colourants and experimental tests using colour modifiers. We explored the ph balance of dye-baths and how to change them with chemical reactions from bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar, vinegar and lemon juice.
I used the cochineal dye-bath and experimented with various different natural fabrics. It was great to see how you could manipulate the colour by changing the ph balance with products from your kitchen cupboards. I had the opinion that natural dyeing would be much better for the environment which is not necessarily the case. You use mordants in natural dyeing, which you treat the fabric with so that the dye is colourfast as many natural dyes would wash out. Some of the mordants used in natural dyes can still be quite hazardous. Less toxic mordants can be used but them you are more limited with your colour pallet.
Natural dyeing is whole new area where much experimentation can be done. At this stage I am not sure how much time I want to invest in this area but it has definitely been good to increase my knowledge and experiment; perhaps it will be something that I revisit with a specific result I want to achieve.