Using Plants & Petals as Natural Dyes

Babs Behan
Wednesday, 8th February 2017

Natural dyes are a healthy, cheap/free and fun alternative to the toxic chemical dyes used in textile industry. Babs Behan shares how to make your own.

The Textile Industry is the second biggest polluter in the World, after agro-chemical farming for the Food Industry.

Our water is being contaminated with heavy metals from industrial dye works, as textile producers and manufacturers use an astounding 8000 synthetic chemicals in their processes.

There are 72 toxic chemicals in our water that come solely from textile dyeing, of which 30 cannot be removed. 

The Dye Industry is one of the top ten industries which are the leading causes of disease and decline in quality of life due to toxic industry throughout the World.

What are the solutions?

- Avoid clothing that uses harsh chemicals and dyes. This means looking for organic materials and dyes, which are becoming more and more popular. Companies like Rapanui do this, and also source their material from Fairtrade and Fairwear factories, as well as running their own factory on renewable energy.

- The best way to improve the clothing and fashion industry is to avoid fast fashion.

According to Positive News, "An estimated 10,000 items of clothing are sent to UK landfill every five minutes, equating to more than 350,000 tonnes of wearable clothes being dumped in landfill each year. Most of us own at least one pair of jeans but few know it would take approximately 14 years to drink the amount of water used to make just a single pair."

So buy secondhand and shop in charity shops, carboot sales, secondhand shops and sites etc. By reducing waste clothing we are extending the lives of clothing, reducing their carbon footprint, and reducing the need for new clothing to be made.

- Hold and attend clothes swaps. Bring friends, families and neighbours together and swap unwanted clothing.

- Make your own clothes and dyes. In our latest magazine issue - PM91 - Ocean Hampson shares her top tips for making your own clothes from recycled and secondhand materials: www.permaculture.co.uk/issue/spring-2017

Babs Behan makes her own natural dyes from flowers and plants. This traditional method was once used in all cloth dying, making beautiful colours from the natural world.

How to natural dye

Babs is an eco-artist based in Bristol, and uses a contemporary technique, called 'bundle-dye' to extract natural colours from petals, plants and recycled juice waste from East London Juice Co. 

STEP 1: Select 100% silk cloth or garment

STEP 2: Scour with hot water and ecological soap

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STEP 3: Rinse and use while damp

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STEP 4: Spray with a clear natural vinegar

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STEP 5: Scatter with flower petals and leaves

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STEP 6: Spray again

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STEP 7: Roll or fold up into a small bundle (see lead image)

STEP 8: Tie tightly with string

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STEP 9: Put inside a glass jar and seal to create a solar oven

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STEP 10: Unwind and open and voila!

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Natural dye course

To educate others on natural dyes, Babs holds natural dying experiences where attendees can learn how to do this themselves.

The next course is on March 5th from 12-3pm. It will be held at the Empire Room, Ace Hotel, Shoreditch High Street, East London.

Attendees will learn to use a simple bind + steam dyeing technique and set colours using only natural materials, as part of a non-toxic creative practice. Create unique eco-printed silk to make into a scarf or cushion cover, and enjoy fragrant teas, juices and superfoods from East London Juice Company. Discover the ancient herbalist practice of imbuing textiles with medicinal botanicals, to then wear close to the skin where their healing qualities can be absorbed, and gain a further understanding of the origins of ceremonial natural dyeing and herbalism.

A length of organic British silk is provided and included in the ticket price, along with a complimentary juice from the East London Juice Company, a welcoming tea and a hot chocolate “Cacao Ceremony” drink, plus all dye materials.

To find out more visit: http://bit.ly/2hVzjK3

Access/Skill: An introductory experimental session, suitable for all levels of expertise. Price: £65

Babs Behan, founder of Botanical Inks, says: “It’s a pleasure to work with Ace Hotel and East London Juice Co. to create an deeply sensual and enriching artisan textiles experience which connects so many beautiful disciples - herbalism, nutrition, textiles, fashion design, apothecary and healing arts.”

For more info about Botanical + Mineral Artist, Babs Behan, see the website here: http://babsbehan.com/

For further info on Botanical Inks, see the website here: www.botanicalinks.com/

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Useful links

Grow and make your own dye plants

Dye Plants

'Choosing sustainable textiles'

Make your own clothes: www.permaculture.co.uk/issue/spring-2017

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