One of the first things I noticed when moving to the countryside of England is that nettles are everywhere, so when I discovered that it is possible to dye with nettles, I was excited.
When dying with nettles, gathered them is the first step ( and my favourite one)
on the lovely weekends walks with my boyfriend, I usually created a mental map to know where they are so that I can go and pick them later.
You can dye with dry nettles, but I prefer to gather them before dyeing.
Of course, nettles are well known for producing a sharp pain in the skin when touched, so it's important to protect your skins with gloves and thick clothes ( don't forget about your ankles! wear long socks).
When picking them, try to do it in different smalls areas, so you don't cause so much "chaos" on the micro-ecosystems and leave them on a bowl outside for few minutes so all the insects can go away.
Dyeing with nettles.
Before dying our fabric, we need to extract the colour of the nettles; I prefer to use a slow method with low temperature.
You are going to need:
Nettles, our dear colour source.
One bowl or bucket
Sieve and a cotton cloth
Pot ( learn here about what type of pot material to use)
Extraction of the colour.
Weight all your nettles, to match the weight of the fabric that you are going to use.
Put them in a bowl or bucket and pour boiling water until covered, boiling water from the kettles is perfect.
Mix them for a couple of minutes and then leave them to soak all night.
The next day, with a sieve and a cotton cloth, straining the dye into a pot.
Put the prewash and mordant fabric on the pot, one by one.
Heat the dye until boiling point, then let it simmer for one hour.
Mix the fabric and the dye with a wooden spoon, so that all the fabric can soak the colour.
Turn down the heat and let the pot to cold. Check the colour to see if you are getting the desired hue.
to get a better result and a stronger colour leave the fabric to soak overnight.
Remove your fabric from the pot, let it dry in a shadow place, and after a week wash it with neutral PH soap.
With nettles, you will have a different result depending on the way that you pretreat your fabric, for example, I get a light grey with the fabric treated with soy milk and light green with the fabric pretreat with potassium alum.
But you will also get slightly different colours depending on the season, brighter colours are normally obtained during spring. I think this is a great reason to dye with nettles all year round.
Let me know your result, I will love to see your experiments; please tag me on my Instagram @casacaribenatural.