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  • Writer's pictureIlona

Dyeing for summer? – Three plants to get you outdoors and beat the November blues.

Take a wander outside in November, and in the UK at least, everything is turning various shades of brown or grey, things look soggy and the landscape turns to its muted colours of winter.

As a natural dyer it’s easy to imagine that there’s not much out there to dye with at the moment. But recently I’ve been walking around the woods and streets quite a bit and I wanted to share with you my recent rediscovery of Autumn! As the days draw in and the lack of light blends with the muted landscape, it’s easy to want to just be inside. Here’s some things to inspire you to go outside and discover some of the plants and treasures of colour beneath all the grey.


Catch them before they’re gone! There’s still some lurking, depending where in the UK you are, and they make a terrific purply-blue dye. Also the leaves make a lovely bluey-grey so if you’re too late for berries, brave picking some leaves (I recommend good gloves!).

Oak Galls

If you can find the galls, they’re an amazing source of dye colour, being particularly high in tannin. Look under oak trees amongst all the acorns. Galls are basically acorns that have turned bumpy and knobbly due to the tree’s reaction when the gall wasp lays it’s eggs in the acorns! If you can’t find any galls, acorns are good to use to.

This scarf was dyed with oak galls - which you can see on the left.


There’s loads of this about at this time of year – look anywhere where there’s a bit of a wild patch, it’s often growing under trees. Simmer for lovely orange and pink tones.

I simmmered bracken simmered for half and hour and then added wool and a piece of hemp

Some simple dye tips:

All in one dye pot method:

Simmer any plant material in water for 20 -30 mins then add the wetted fabric you want to dye. Heat at medium to hot temperature for around half an hour. Rinse and hang to dry.

Roll up method with Solar:

Lay plants on your damp fabric and then roll it up like a Swiss Roll with a strong stick to help keep pressure on the fabric. Wrap a string around it like a mummy in order to secure it.

At this point I like to add some water with some vinegar in it (about 3 parts water to one part vinegar). This will help speed up reactions with tannins and rust.

Then wrap in a (clear if possible) plastic bag or place in a glass jar to keep in moisture and let in sunlight and warmth. Place somewhere sunny and let the sun do the work! I occasionally open re-moisten it with the vinegar water.

Leave for anything from 4 days to 2 weeks.

All in one dye pot, and the rolling up method using a piece of hazel branch and string to secure it.


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