Monday, 6 August 2012

Blackberry dye fun

I like to collect pretty hand embroidered tray and table cloths when I spot them for a bargain in charity shops or boot sales.

I love thinking of the women who made these, sitting quietly in the evenings sewing to their hearts content and the conversations that might have happened, the tea and maybe cake served over this tray cloth. It seemed right that I chose this pretty floral cloth to make another lavender and rice filled heat pack for a special friends birthday on Sunday. 

I really want to learn to embroider with pretty colours and love the therapy of hand stitching. I noticed that the new Jane Brocket book is due to be released next month and if my copy of her book The Gentle art of knitting is anything to go buy, I think I will need to treat myself to this beauty. I can't wait!

It has been rather gentle here over the weekend, Alice is finding a new found level of independence with her friends going to the park or down the sea front for an ice-cream on their own leaving me and Andy at home with some time to spare. It's a weird time letting go of your child, I'm not too sure that I am 100% comfortable with it yet, but I am putting my trust in God that we are doing the right thing.

So, whilst I made us all a veggie curry on Saturday evening waiting for Alice to come home, I got some inspiration from the red onions I was chopping up whilst admiring my lavender I am drying out at the moment. 

The different shades of purple are very pleasing to my eye and I've been thinking about making use of nature's fruits as a natural dye for some fabric but have never found the right moment. So, I decided to pull out some old black berries I froze from last year's pickings and make my very own shade of purple dye.

I only had about a cup of berries which I mashed down as much as I could and added 1/4 cup salt for helping the dye "to take" and not run once it has set in the fabric.

Next,I chose one of my thrifty vintage cotton pillow slips I bought for 50p in a local charity shop.

And popped it into a large enough pot (some people suggest an aluminium pot as it helps with the dying process, but I don't have one so had to make do with what I have)

I boiled the pillow slip for about 15 minutes and was quite excited to see what the outcome of my little experiment would be.

The berries look quite pale and anaemic as I poured the water into the colander...

And very first naturally dyed pillow slip emerged from the water.

I'm rather pleased with this beauty and after having a good look spotted a couple of more "stained" spots but that really doesn't bother me at all, adds to the character is what I say :o)

All in all this was good fun and I plan to have a play with some other plants to make more natural dyes again some day soon. I did   happen to encounter this web site which has a fabulous list of plants and what colour dyes they produce in case you are interested. I fancy using some tumeric to make a shade of yellow/mustard.

Maybe, just maybe this might very well be a perfect pillow slip to practice some of my long awaited embroidery learning skills on?

We'll see!

Thanks for popping in and welcome to new follower, Yvonne of Just Blethering

Oh and thank you kindly to Lynne of Textile Treasury for my One Lovely Blog Award, much appreciated.

See you all soon


  1. I made some berry muffins last week, and looking at the raspberries and especially the blueberries in the cakes , they were such strong colours that I was thinking about using them as dyes....I remember looking at something that had certain plants listed for dying and some of the things I was quite surprised about., as they gave strong colours. I was also given an old book a few weeks ago n the same subject, but it went away without being opened at the time, I must dig it out. Love your hand stitched pressies and I think if you start colouring too, maybe your threads aswell, the skies the limit.

    I often wonder how I will be about being freer with my oldest (9 ) we are due to move house at the end of the year and I know this will be a big topic then, can' say I'm looking forward to it.

  2. Blueberries also make a lovely hue! If you don't have an aluminium pot, it is worth getting some allum, you can buy small quantities online or at the chemist sometimes, it helps the dye fix and stops it fading. I use an old aluminium jamp pot I picked up at a carboot for a song. Now you've got the bug, you will be dying with all kinds of stuff! Tumeric makes a pretty yellow and fixes well without salt or allum btw. As for embroidery, it is super easy, give it a go! x

  3. Oh yes the pillowslip will look fantastic with some embroidery on it. How satisfying to do your own colouring. xx

  4. What a lovely shade it turned out! I've only done tea-dyeing. All our berries seem to end up in muffins or fruit crumbles. (I made a mixed fruit crumble last week with nectarines, plum, blueberry and cherry, and the resulting syrup was the most glorious shade of deep red - I remember just looking at the pan and revelling in the vividness of it.)

    That lavender sprig looks lovely against the pillow slip - all you need is a little pattern and some thread. :)

  5. Your pillow-slip looks beautiful - quite agree that the tiny 'spot' just make it more natural. I'll be interested in how you go with the turmeric...and will the pong go? Personally, considering the number of garments onto which Ive managed to get an orange stain from some foodstuff with TOMATO in it, I'd go for the toms, can't fail! I've dome loads of tea dyeing and also used instant coffee. It's great fun, isn't it?

  6. Such a beautiful colour. As Hoola Tallulah says, as it is it won't be very light/wash fast, but I have fabrics dyed years ago that still look freshly done. Storing them away from light and keeping washing to a minimum has been the key to their survival. Have fun, now you've experienced the magic of plant dyes there'll be no stopping you!

  7. What a lovely color. I love that shade of purple. I'm a purple fanatic and the color is so delicate. Good job.

  8. Oh you did great work on the pillow-slip! The color turned out beautifully! I'm inspired by your hand embroidery, it's too sweet!!!
    Best wishes,

  9. How pretty does the pillow-slip look, well done. I think brown onion skins dye to a soft yellow color, and we all know about tea. I wonder if beetroot would be a pretty color too?
    xx Sandi

  10. So subtle..thaat really is lovely, shame we've no blackberries here...think I'll see what I can find instead..
    Take care

  11. What a beautiful shade, Penelope. I've often thought of dyeing using plants, but whenever I've looked into it, the books say about using chemical fixers, and I always end up thinking it's too complicated and toxic! So perhaps I'll have a go using salt as you did. And I need to explore the blog you mention too. Thanks for that!
    It's an exciting time for Alice having more freedom. And I'm sure she's always glad to come back to the safety of home afterwards :)
    Jane xx

  12. What beautiful embroidery and a fabulous idea. I have to be honest changing the colour of things does scare me a little, but with blackberries - well that seems like fun as well.

    Have a fabulous weekend,

    Nina xxx