Today I am chatting to an Australian natural dyeing idol of mine, Myf Walker, about this gorgeous vest! Myf stocks a shop with pieces that she has thoughtfully made, from fabric to jewellery to garments. Myf is hands on from the very moment she plants a seed in her dye garden through to the last stitch.
Tell us a little bit about the planning that went into this project. How long did it take from start to finish? (Include researching your fabric, trailing the pattern, fittings, dyeing etc!)
Honestly I try not to think about the amount of time that goes into the things I make. From drafting the pattern (and redrafting), dyeing, cutting, sewing, handstitching etc at least a couple of months.
(Photo credit to Myf Walker)
Can you tell us more the fabric used and how you dyed this gorgeous vest?
For this particular vest I used a silk/hemp blend for the vest itself with wool batting as lining. Then the collar is made using silk habutai stitched onto a wool melton base. The collar and most of the vest were dyed using a blend of materials Pomegranate (the gold) and Roses (purples) mostly. The bias binding of the vest was dyed using Weld.
Your approach to dyeing is very inspiring, from growing your own dye plants, through to the brilliant range of colours in your repertoire. What is your favourite plant for dyeing? And What is your favourite technique?
Oh it’s so hard to pick a favourite, I love them all for different reasons! I love dyeing with pomegranate probably because I’ve had such varied results in colour from the one dyestuff, but also because the tannins in the peel mean there’s no need for a mordant. And solar dyeing is probably my favourite technique simply because it’s so easy (aka lazy). Because I only have very small pockets of free time stuffing something in a jar and leaving it for a few weeks is about all I can manage at the moment.
Mordanting seems like it could be hit and miss. Do you have a standard mordanting regime that you like?
I tend to mordant a bunch of fabric at once and then dry it for later use. But quite often I’ll also mordant things whilst I’m dyeing them by adding the mordant to the dye pot (or using the pot as a mordant). The key is to use a large vessel so that you can keep the fabric moving freely so that it’s more likely to mordant evenly. I also soak my fabrics in water first before adding them to the mordant pot. I also think it helps to leave the fabric in the mordant pot for as long as you possibly can, I usually do it overnight.
When buying new fabrics to dye, do you have a strategy for dealing with trade-offs – like quality over cost, local vs international, organic vs inorganic? What do you value most?
This is a really tough one because the vast majority of fabric available here for dyeing is imported so yes there are tradeoffs. ALWAYS quality over cost. And local and sustainable wherever possible. Quality and sustainability are really important, I’ve chosen to work primarily with silk and wool because they tick those boxes for me. A lot of the fibres I use (especially the yarns) are repurposed or secondhand. I’m using a bunch of handspun yarn at the moment that came from the op shop (for example).
(Photo Credit Myf Walker)
Have you found a supplier(s) that you consider to be the best you can get in sustainable fabric to you in your area? Do you have any questions that you ask suppliers about their fabrics before you buy so you know what you are getting?(Don’t worry if not, I don’t either!) Or is there information that you wish suppliers would provide as standard?
Ideally I’d like to be able to travel to visit producers myself and I do hope to be able to do that in time because really it’s the only way you can be sure of what it is that you’re buying. The questions you ask will really depend on what kind of fibre you’re buying, your personal ethics and what qualities you require for whatever is it that you are doing. I have a good relationship with my supplier and I trust the information that I’m given about the fabrics I buy, I think that’s the most important thing.
Do you have any other go to resources that inspire you or recommend for the beginner Eco-dyer?
Kraft Kolour has a great range of natural dyes, fibres and resource books which makes it easy to get into using natural dyes. The internet is of course an excellent resource for tutorials and visual inspiration. And check out your local library for books on natural dyeing, you might even be able to find a group in your local area that works with natural dyes.
A huge thank you to Myf for sharing her wisdom!