Dyeing – keeping records

When I started experimenting with natural dyes I told myself sternly that I must keep proper records of what I was doing – otherwise I’d get in a hopeless muddle and if I got a colour I liked I wouldn’t be able to reproduce. So I set up some records and I’m pleased, and slightly surprised, to be able to tell you that I’ve kept them up to date carefully and consistently. The thing is, I actually quite enjoy writing up what I’m doing. It reminds me of chemistry experiments at school. I was hopeless at chemistry – never had the remotest clue what was going on – but maybe that’s just because I wasn’t interested in what they were telling us. When it comes to dyeing, which is very much the same thing as chemistry experiments, I’m completely absorbed.

So, what are my records like? Well, first, every time I do anything related to dyeing, I write it up in some detail in a sketchbook – see photo. Natural dyeing record

This is a page selected at random, but it’s pretty typical of what I write. I find I have to do this straight away, pretty much as I’m dunking stuff into the dyepot because otherwise I forget almost instantly what I’ve done.

The next stage is recording the results in another book – this time one that’s long and thin. I glue (fabric) or tie (threads) samples of the finished results into the book, in date order.

Here’s a photo of the closed book, and next, a photo of a page of it:Record of natural dyeing results

Natural dyeing results book





I make sure I date every page, so that I have a cross reference back to the first book. Is this completely over the top? Well, maybe it’s me being obsessive, but I don’t think so. I find it very useful to be able to go back and read about exactly what I did to produce a particular hue or tone.

Finally, (what? there’s more? is the woman mad?) I staple a little piece of paper to each piece of fabric, and write the description on the thread spool, including the dye name, immersion number (useful if you use the same dye bath several times to produce successively paler tones) and date. Here’s a photo of some of the results of my experiments in logwood:Logwood labelling example

So, maybe it is all a bit over the top, but I find it very helpful indeed, especially at this stage where I’m learning new things about dyeing all the time.