Friday, August 19, 2011

book report: wild colour

i've been on a bit of a travelling roadshow lately with the hats, and haven't had a chance to do much dyeing.  but fortunately i'll be working for the next couple weeks from the little village i grew up in, and this time of year is fantastic for gathering local wild dyestuffs.  and i will.....

in the meantime, i wanted to put up a little natural dye book report of sorts.  over the years i've collected quite a few natural dye books, so i thought i could share little mini-reviews of my favorites with you.

i'll begin with wild colour, by jenny dean, which is one of the two dye books that i use the most, and recommend the most when people ask me.  my copy is older, i think there is a new edition with a different cover.

i think it's really the best all around natural dye book out there, and has clear instructions and great photos for most everything you might want to know as a beginner dyer, including several things you don't see in other books, like how to make your own mordants:

and also great experiments to try, such as this one, making 25 different colours from one dyebath:

the second half of the book lays out one page per dyestuff, and as the title suggests, it focuses on many dyestuffs that can be found in the wild.  of course, this depends a lot of where you live (the author lives in england), but many (though certainly not all) of the dyestuffs listed are things that i can find in southern ontario.  some, like goldenrod, are abundant right here in downtown toronto (right now!):

my only real complaint with this book is the kind of colour swatches that are used to demonstrate the potential colours within a dyestuff.  almost all dye books i've seen use photos of actual fibres which have been dyed.  in this book, it's a kind of pantone colour swatch, which i find can be a bit misleading.  for example, if anyone has ever been able to achieve such beautiful shades of soft pink using birchbark, like the swatches shown, i'd love to see them.  in my experience, you're more likely to get a range of browns with pink undertones.

but all in all, this is one of my two most valuable natural dye resource books, and i highly recommend it.  back soon with some actual dyeing!

1 comment:

  1. This is a favourite book of mine too, it's so inspiring! I know what you mean about the colour swatches, but I think she makes up for it with a lot of other pictures, esp in this book. I've got Colours from Nature as well, which have almost no pictures except the colour swatches, which makes the book a bit 'visual boring'. I think the swatches has an advantage to pictures of 'real' dyed fibres, because it's not really possible to achieve the exact same colour anyway. (the difference in the fibres used, the water and so on)- I see the swatches more like an indication of a likely colour to achieve with a certain plant. And I haven't been able to get a pink from birch bark either - but next time I'll try to use the inner bark, as far as I remember she writes something about using only the inner bark will make it a more pure pink. Oh, and I havent said hello before - I've been reading your blog though, and it's lovely :) Mona