Printing with Natural Dye Extracts

Caroline Bell is running a 2 day workshop in printing with inks made from natural dye extracts at Cinderford Artspace, on 2nd and 3rd November.

She has so much to show us, I’m inspired and excited! Here’s an outline of the course -

Printing with Natural dyes

This is an introductory workshop examining the use of print paste with natural dye extracts in order to achieve a variety of effects using a range of print techniques onto fabric. We will cover preparation of fabric, mixing the print paste and how to add the dye extracts. Print methods will include the use of screens, thermofaxes, gelliplates, stencils and print blocks. If time permits we will also look at how to use the print paste with a mordant onto fabric and then overdye with a natural dye.

Here are some photos of some of Caroline’s prints and from previous workshops she’s run -

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Wow you can see how much we’ll learn and be able to achieve!

The course will cost £90 for two days. A deposit of £20 is necessary to secure a place.

Please contact me on if you’d like to secure a place. Once you’ve enrolled, I’ll let you know what you need to bring with you for the workshop.

Using wood

When working with my partner in his garden recently, we took down some very old fence panels that were about to come down anyway. I was about to saw them up for kindling, since they do make excellent kindling, when I started looking closely at the marks, colours and textures in the wood. I kept a lot of them, and yesterday sawed some up, sanded them in places since some of the edges were very sharp, and treated them. I used an environmentally friendly wood preservative that I’d been given last year, I need to find out what the make is.

Using a very small drill bit I made some holes into the wood, and yesterday evening I did some stitching, using plant dyed silk threads.

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Here’s a close up which I’m not managing to resize!  I love to use discarded items, add to their beauty with my stitching. I have a lot more pieces of fence panel waiting to be embellished. While sorting through them I enjoy seeing their natural marks and indentations.

Here’s a close up which I’m not managing to resize!

I love to use discarded items, add to their beauty with my stitching. I have a lot more pieces of fence panel waiting to be embellished. While sorting through them I enjoy seeing their natural marks and indentations.

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Again, not managing to resize the photo!

In this piece I see a water bird, a crane probably, with an elegant long neck.

Introduction to Ecoprinting and Natural Dyeing

There are some places available on 2 workshops I’m running in July.

Enjoy the exciting process of using plants to dye and print onto fabric and paper. You will take away dyed and ecoprinted pieces of silk, cotton and cartridge paper. You will also have the opportunity to experiment with some shibori techniques and to dye stitched fabric with natural plant dyes.

On Saturday July 6th at Cinderford Artspace. Phone 01594 825111 for more details and to enrol.

On Wednesday 17th July at New Brewery Arts in Cirencester. Phone 01285 657181 for more details and to enrol.

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Printing with tiles

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Recently I rescued some water colour paper from the recycling bin at work, keen to use it as I know how well it can take plant dye.

The dye bath that I’ve been using for several weeks now is giving a beautiful green. It’s made up of a mixture of onion skins, ivy, iron water and some dandelion flowers.

I have a lot of old kitchen tiles, friends know I use them in my workshops and so I do get given a lot!

I enjoyed printing with the patterns on the underside of the tiles onto the rescued water colour paper.

Excuse the very grubby work table!

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I’m looking forward to maybe stitching into these papers, and maybe making some small books. And I’m seeing lots of patterns now on the “wrong” sides of tiles!

Being-with, Making-with

Last week I had the great opportunity to go with my Friend Debbie Weaver to see this exhibition at Dartington Space Gallery.

The work of the four artists Nicky Cornwell, Karen Hawkins, Judith Israel and Jenny Thorburn was on show. Each artists’ work was unique and all their work sat so beautifully together.

“…. represent(ing) organic, gentle collaborations with nature, osmotic interactions between us and the context of this particular natural environment ( the Dartington estate)”.

Beautiful weaving by Judith Israel

Beautiful weaving by Judith Israel

(part of) Alluvial Alphabets by Nicky Cornwell

(part of) Alluvial Alphabets by Nicky Cornwell


These photos just give an idea of some of the work displayed. The exhibition ends on Wednesday 1st May, if you’re able to get to see it, I highly recommend it.

Dead heading daffodils!

Isn’t the yellow of the Spring so beautiful and cheerful! The forsythia, primroses, daffodils, so many flowers to make us smile, in the hedgerows, woods, parks, gardens.

Luckily for us who enjoy making plant dye baths, daffodils need dead heading, they flower so much better year after year if they’re dead headed regularly. So this morning I’ve been out doing just that.

I simmered them for 40 minutes or so, took the plant matter out of the bath then added pieces of old cotton sheets.


The fabric’s a brighter yellow than this. Such a cheerful Spring colour,

Enjoying learning new skills

For a while I’ve wanted to make a “crossover back apron”. I see them on people, a couple of friends have gorgeous ones made of linen, and on line, and I like them, a lot.

I found myself a pattern on etsy. It’s a very straightforward pattern, was very reasonably priced, and was made by Alison. Yes a handmade pattern. Alison Maryon. You’d find Alison on facebook. I so love supporting individual makers rather than big companies.

With this pattern you need 7 metres of bias binding. As I do my very best not to buy any new cotton products, I made the bias binding. Years ago my Mum gave me a gadget for making bias binding. I used it once. So I made bias binding with old cotton sheets and the fabulous gadget,


I made seven metres of bias binding, enjoying using this basic but very useful gadget.


Here I am in my new crossover back apron! I’ve started making more. I’ll be dyeing some in plant dye baths and ecoprinting on some.

I’ve so enjoyed learning a new skill. Thank you for reading. I’ll work out how to change sizes of photos before I add my next post to my blog!

Workshops in Ecoprinting and Natural Dyeing this Summer

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An Introduction to Ecoprinting and Natural Dyeing

Enjoy the exciting process of using plants to dye and print onto fabric and paper. You will take away dyed and ecoprinted pieces of silk, cotton and cartridge paper. You will also have the opportunity to experiment with some shibori techniques and to dye stitched fabric with natural plant dyes.

On Saturday July 6th at Cinderford Artspace. Phone 01594 825111 for more details and to enrol.

On Wednesday 17th July at New Brewery Arts in Cirencester. Phone 01285 657181 for more details and to enrol.

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Learning some sashiko stitching

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For a while I have been keen to learn some sashiko stitching. Sashiko, which means “little stab” is a traditional technique from Northern Japan. Intricate patterns are made, using just running stitches.

Traditionally white thread is used on blue fabric. I am enjoying using plant dyed fabrics and threads, and an assortment of colours. I don’t usually work in this measured and controlled way, but am loving the patterns.

Seminole patchwork with plant dyed fabrics

My passion and joy in working with textiles began to develop when I spent some time learning patchwork from my Mum. I was at my parents’ home in my early twenties for several months, recovering from a serious car accident. The hours spent being creative and working with fabric played an important part in my recovery.

My own work has long since moved away from patchwork, but I like to remember and recognise the importance of that phase of my life.


I was lucky to receive a lot of my mothers’ patchwork books when she downsized and cleared her workroom a couple of years ago. Most of them went to friends, patchwork groups and charity shops. But one I kept and have often felt inspired to use is the book Basic Seminiole Patchwork by Cheryl Greider Bradkin.


Seminole Indian women in the Florida Everglades developed the technique, they created striking patchwork garments. The book is an excellent one, giving plenty of information, clear instructions and inspiring photos.

I have spent some time following some of her instructions, using my plant dyed fabrics.

So here you can see my small pieces. I thoroughly enjoyed the process, it’s a while since since I cut and pieced together fabric so carefully. I am in full admiration of patchworkers, how carefully they piece fabric together.

I am loving the colours this Autumn, and so many plant dye baths give beautiful Autumnal colours. I hope to use these patchworks in a large piece celebrating Autumn.


Plant dyed fabric and threads for sale

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I’m often asked if I sell plant dyed fabric and threads online. So I’ve spent some time sorting through fabrics in my workroom, to make some packs to sell.

Here’s a pack of greens and yellows, including cotton, wool and silk fabrics. All threads are raw silk threads.

My difficulty here - the colours are really not accurate. I can’t help that!

And below is a pack of pinks and purples.

The packs are for sale at £12 plus p&p.

If there’s enough interest I’ll put more up for sale.

Do email me if you have any questions.

Thanks for looking.

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Stitching into found tree bark, continued

Sometimes you have an idea which just won't go away, however mad the idea might seem. For years, when I've looked at tree bark, at the textures and marks, I've wanted to add to that texture and those marks with stitch.

I did a small amount of experimenting a few weeks ago, stitched into some hazel bark. I enjoyed the process and was pleased with the result. Today I've stitched into bark from different trees, bark gathered on my walks near home, the beautiful Forest of Dean.

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I had been thinking of coating the stitched bark with polythylene glycol. On reflection, that process seemed more complicated than need be. So I'm going to protect the stitched pieces of bark with a wood preservative which is harmless to plants.

All going to plan I'll have several pieces completed for the West Country quilting and Textile Show, to display at the gallery space that I'm sharing with Caroline Bell. Our space will be called Gatherings.

Wooden print blocks from India

I'm so excited! Several weeks ago I sent some of my drawings to a company in India, for them to make wooden print blocks, based on my drawings. They arrived yesterday, and I love them!

Here's how they're made, thank you to the company Colouricious for the information.

"The wood used is called Sheesham, more commonly  known as North Indian Rosewood. It is a slow growing but durable wood and is native to the Indian sub-continent. The wood is cut into slices and then filed and sanded until completely flat and smooth. The surface is then covered with a mixture of chalk, Fevicol which is like PVA glue. This is what gives the blocks the white finish on the carved side.

The design for the block is first drawn onto a piece of paper and then transferred onto the white side of the wood and tacked into place. The pattern is transferred onto the wood by drawing and piercing the paper sheet to create an image that is ready to be carved.

The carving process is completed by hand using small chisels and bow drills. 

Once the design is complete the blocks are soaked in oil for up to a week to make them more durable and to avoid them cracking in the dry environment of block printing."

I'll be spending time over the next couple of weeks enjoying making printing ink from natural dyes.

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Making Greens

Green is one of the most difficult colours to make with natural dyes. In the past I've bought a green dye from a supplier - made up of natural indigo, pomegranate and alkanet. And I've made a green by mixing iron water, onion skin or buddleia, and logwood. I buy the logwood from suppliers.

I wanted to make a green from local plants. Diane suggested trying buddliea, ivy and iron water. All of these are plentiful! So many neighbours are so pleased when I trim back their ivy and dried buddliea flowers, and in my shed I have many large jars of iron water made from rusty items.

I made several dye baths, adding more ivy leaves made the green more intense, more buddliea made a golden green, the iron water darkened the colour, as we'd expect. I'm pleased with the results.


The colours don't show really well in the photo. As always, the silk threads took the colour differently from the cotton fabrics.

Thank you for your suggestion Diane!

Workshops in Ecoprinting and Natural Dyeing at Springfield Arts in September '18

Introduction to Ecoprinting and Natural Dyeing on 15th September. 10am - 4pm

Enjoy the exciting process of using plants to dye and print onto fabric and paper. You will take away dyed and ecoprinted pieces of silk, cotton and cartridge paper. You will also have the opportunity to experiment with some shibori techniques and to dye stitched fabric with natural plant dyes.

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Ecoprinting and Natural Dyeing Continuation 16th September. 10am - 4pm

This course is suitable for anyone who has done an introductory course and they’d like to extend their practice. It can be taken as a follow on from Saturday or as a stand alone. We will be using several ways to ecoprint, exploring ways to get different tones from plant dyes, and seeing how different silks take prints and dyes.


All materials are provided. 

The courses are set in a very beautiful place, near Builth Wells, mid Wales. Fiona is the most generous of hosts, and makes the best cakes ever!

For more details contact Fiona at

My Ethiopian cottons

Nearly 2 years ago my friend Gaynor gave me a bag full of Ethiopian cottons, that she'd had for more than 10 years, and they'd been given to her more than 10 years ago.

The cottons were grown, harvested, spun and wound on a small family Ethiopian cotton farm. It seemed such a shame for them not to be used, to be appreciated and loved.

I have been dyeing them in plant dye baths since then. I love them as characters, their characters do seem to grow when they've been dyed. They sit together as friends and a big family. I love them!

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Thank you Andy Squiff for taking great photos of them!

Gaynor offered me more, how can I resist!

Dyeing with oak bark

I've been keen to dye fabric with oak bark for years, having learnt that the bark is full of tannin. For centuries it was extracted and used to tan hides. Up until the early part of the 20th century it was used widely to produce a strong yellow dye. (I've learnt so much from Jenny Dean's Wild Colour, which is the most thumbed book in my house!). 

I love the wide range of yellows we can get with natural dyes, using onion skin, dried buddleia, golden rod, tansy, and more. I was keen to find out what yellow oak bark gives us.

Living in the Forest of Dean, I'd thought of gathering fallen bark on my walks, and making a dye bath from it. I haven't made the time for that, I bought oak bark from a supplier.

I put the bark chips and some fabric and thread in my dye pan and simmered them for less than an hour. Just a small amount, to see what colour it gives before dyeing larger pieces.

The photo doesn't really show the colour well. It's a gorgeous brownish yellow. 

I'm planning to continue using the dye bath, maybe add some onion skins, or madder maybe, to get a range of tones.

oak bark

Stitching into bark

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I've recently collected a few pieces of bark from the forest floor when out walking, enjoying the different textures. I'm hoping to dry out the pieces that I've collected and then experiment with stitching into them

A friend Glen, the Wonky Carpenter, gave me some dried out hazel bark, and I drilled some holes into it, then did some stitching into it, using plant dyed raw silk threads.

Wondering how to preserve it. I do like the natural decay of plant materials, I'm also interested to find ways of preserving them, ways that don't alter their natural look.

My friend Keith has recommended the use of polythylene glycol. I'll try that.

Dyeing with indigo.

Last Autumn I attended a two day workshop with Caroline Bell, a great tutor! I haven't made the time to try making up an indigo vat since then, but yesterday my friend Jenny and I had a go. The weather has been perfect for indigo dyeing, so lovely and warm.

We used pre-reduced indigo, henna powder and lime to make up the vat. We waited 30 minutes before testing to see if it was alive. (We did keep having a peek before testing!) It was alive!

I dyed fabric I'd previously printed with rust, liking the combination of rust and indigo.


I'm pleased with the range in tones, the fabric at the top of the photo was dyed when the indigo was nearly spent, giving a much paler blue.


I added a few french knots to this rust stained fabric before dyeing. The raw silk thread has taken the colour beautifully.

I'm hoping to make more time over the next few weeks to do more dyeing with indigo. 

Printing with rust

A while since I've printed with rusty items. I soaked several pieces of cotton in tea, then enjoyed arranging rusting items onto the cotton, trying to make sure there was plenty of contact between fabric and rust.

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I found these very old bed springs on one of my walks recently, looking forward to seeing the pattern they make.

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I love using my dear Dad's old tools!

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Just 12 hours later, and in some places the rust is printing beautifully. I love the subtle greyish blues. 

Keeping the fabric and rust damp, sprinkling cold tea on every few hours.

When I started experimenting printing with rust onto fabric, about 10 years ago, I used vinegar, which I'd read is used to speed up the rusting process. The rust print is a much stronger orange when vinegar is used as a wetting agent.

I learnt over a year ago from Alice Fox that vinegar produces an orange red/rust – ferric oxide. Ferric oxide is corrosive and toxic. Tea and other plant materials produce ferrous oxide, which is a lot less toxic, more stable and more gentle, producing some lovely black/grey tones. Tannins in tea react with the iron.

So I now avoid using vinegar and rust, enjoying the gentle tones given by the reaction of rust on fabric wetted with tea.