My history and experience thus far with natural dyeing has come from a place of working mainly with fresh dye plants and minerals. In fact my first real exposure to the natural dye world was by way of gardening, not the actual dyeing itself. I collaborated with the wise and sustainably minded folk at the Cordwainers Community Garden. They are situated next to the London College of Fashion Hackney campus where I was pursuing my Masters in Sustainability in Fashion and I happily accepted their proposal to take the lead in planning and building a dye garden to supplement their already impressive and quickly evolving green space. I have since found myself unable to stop dyeing!
Dyeing with fresh garden or wild foraged plants brings a satisfaction unlike dyeing with powdered and imported natural dyes or liquid concentrate extracts, as I know that the colors produced are unique and specific to their place and time spent in their environment. The goldenrod I collect on the roadside in Sullivan County in October will have received much more rain and sun than that of which I pick wild in Long Island, late August, imparting a more dense and mature yellow.
Extracts however offer something to the natural dyer that are very important and indispensable for longevity and breadth of work...consistency! I'm looking forward to working more with the convenient and reliable liquid extracts available from Botanical Colors. I've started my foray into extract dyeing with Saxon Blue. This beautiful, and rich color (especially on wool...holy moley was I struck by the blue!) is nearly impossible to achieve with fresh natural plants. It is made with non-toxic and GOTS certified organic auxiliaries and was concocted and based upon an 18th century recipe.
I will continue to work with my own Brooklyn garden grown plants, but in the winter now as the natural world has less to offer and the natural dye work comes a knockin, I'm very happy to have this and other extract colors available to supplement my palette.