Plant Dyeing with Kirsten Ingemar

I enrolled in this natural dyeing workshop as my own personal ‘bonus add-on’ relating to the manipulated fabric works in Assignment 3.  How lucky that this opportunity came up at this time.

Kirsten Ingemar, visiting Sydney from her property in Byron Bay, offered a 2 day introductory course on dyeing fabric using plants and vegetables with different mordants as the basis to create colour, pattern and depth.

  • She included various eucalyptus leaves, cinerea, rosemary, grevillea, bottlebrush, onion skins and red cabbage.
  • The 3 mordants were alum, iron and copper sulphate.
  • Fabrics choices included silk noil, silk georgette, silk chiffon, silk satin, linen, cotton, rayon, wool, wool fibre and yarns.

ND-1-2Fabrics were folded, tied, rolled, crumpled and / or clamped before placing into the boiling dye pots.

ND-3-4Pots: Above left – gum leaf and copper.  Above right – paperbark and alum.

ND-10Pots: Above left – onion skins and alum.  Above right – red cabbage and alum.

After the alloted time fabrics were removed …….


Then came the fun part.

Clamps, string, elastic bands, wooden blocks and so on were removed and the fabrics were rinsed.

The piece to the left, from the gum and copper bath, had been folded, tightly wrapped with heavyweight ‘fluffy’ string and then pushed tightly to one end of the plumbers pipe.

It came out quite well but obviously the technical specs stamped in black on the pipe couldn’t resist the boiling process and transferred to the fabric.  Not something I planned but interesting all the same.

ND-8Day 2 saw us  incorporating leaves, flower heads and small twigs within the tightly manipulated fabric in the hope they would leach colour and give added depth to the cloths, along with any other tying and binding we also applied.

ND-6Below are some of my results:

ND-11Clear, yellow and pinkish plastic beads of varying sizes and shapes were tied into the silk satin fabric.  Some colour was transferred into the cloth.  Photos show before and after ironing.

ND-12Above left: onion skin dyed silk satin with faint leaf pattern. Right: grevillea and copper bath dyed silk noil where the leaf imprints just didn’t work.

ND-13Left: grevillea flower pods in red cabbage dye bath.  Right: folded silk noil held with bulldog clips in gum and copper dye bath.  I found the noil difficult to pattern well, the outer sides worked but the dye would not penetrate the layers.

ND-14Silk satin with cinerea (that’s the yellowish areas), gum leaves and twigs in paperbark and iron dye bath, left overnight.  Close-up on the right.  Great results for all of us once they were left in the cooling / cold dye vat over many hours.

ND-15In this sample hydrangea leaves were inserted.  The tutor didn’t know if they would work and they gave no imprint but left the lighter brown patches.  Small imprints of the stems can be seen.

ND-16Silk georgette was folded many times and wrapped – from a corner – around a narrow plumbers pipe, overlapping, and tied with string before being tightly compacted on the pole.  Close-up on the right.

ND-17Left: The finished pole wrapped georgette as per earlier photos.  Right: georgette, folded with gum leaves and cinerea inserted, rolled and tightly bound.

Overall a very enjoyable experience with many samples, not all good of course.  I’ve ordered a book on natural dyeing and have bought the mordants to continue at home.  I did learn a trick to help to improve the leaf imprints and I’ll give that a go next time.

I love workshops and they are an excellent place to learn basics to build on later.  I like to give it a go and then continue alone at home exploring and finding out what works for me, in this case extending what I picked up over a frantic weekend with 13 people crowded together and all wanting to do as much as possible.


About Claire B

I am a passionate printmaker, paper maker and book artist. I'm a 'forever' student and frequently attend courses and workshops to extend and improve my creative skills.
This entry was posted in My Creative Pieces, Textiles 1: Exploring Ideas, Workshops & Classes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Plant Dyeing with Kirsten Ingemar

  1. kath says:

    these look great Claire. I love the colours. at the shibori dyeing class I did a while back we used wooden pegs too (they work better than plastic pegs). they make nice little diamond and square patterns on the folded fabric

    • Claire B says:

      Yes there were a few wooden pegs but as work was completed the pegs were used to hang the pieces to dry!!
      Someone used wooden mouse traps with the metal parts removed and they gave pinkish tinges as the colour came through. I’d like to try the same but with the metal bits attached as it might give either rust or another pattern.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s