Once in a great while a book about natural dyeing comes along that completely changes my perspective on creating color and Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles by India Flint has my mind buzzing with the possibilities of using natural dyes in a whole new way. Ms. Flint is an Australian artist who collects frozen blossoms, fallen leaves, cast off vegetable trimmings and weeds to create art cloth that is local, sustainable and glows with unexpected and intriguing color combinations. Eco Colour is a complete guide to her unique method of natural dyeing and Ms. Flint generously details her process and vision for truly low impact, natural dyes.
This comprehensive book is divided into parts and chapters, abundantly illustrated and clearly laid out. The book opens with a thoughtful questioning about the price we pay for using non-sustainable dye methods and in subsequent chapters provides guidance and inspiration for readers to create natural colors safely and with the least environmental impact possible. Ms. Flint covers how to set up a dye area, how to use dyes and mordants safely and important considerations for dealing with used dye water and effluent. One chapter is dedicated to different common plant varieties and the potential colors they yield. Another chapter covers a number of ways to fix color onto cloth including traditional mordants, different proteins, metals, and other non-toxic substances. Ms. Flint then discusses a number of extraction methods, inspired in part from practices in different cultures including fermentation, freezing and other unconventional ways to coax color from plants.
The second half of the book details a number of processes that Ms. Flint uses to color her cloth. I was fascinated with the eco-print technique that she uses to imprint fabrics with ghostly images which help her determine the dye potential of a plant using a single leaf and are a clever way to impart a distinctive mark onto cloth. Ms. Flint also shows how to marble cloth using a bundling technique and a noisy, stress-reducing flower pounding technique she calls hapa-zome. Later chapters of the book are dedicated to layering color, printing on cloth, and creating designs through resists, including shibori, clamping, binding, and pastes. Ms. Flint also covers the use of solar energy for dyeing, Malian and Australian mud-printing and using cow patties as textile paint. She includes chapters on dyeing fibers and yarns and the final chapters in the book discuss water quality, the importance of time in developing rich colors, textile care, and a bibliography and reference chapter for further research.
Eco Colour is richly illustrated with Ms. Flint’s art cloth, costumes, experiments, notebook entries and close-ups of the plants she uses. It is an inspiring book and a thoughtful meditation on how to create natural color using the smallest footprint possible. With her book in hand, I am eager to tread lightly, look carefully and see what spectacular potential the most ordinary looking leaf might reveal in a dyebath. Eco Colour is available through Interweave Press, Amazon.com or your local bookseller.