Plant dyeing weaves its magic

Kirsten Ingemar (right) and Ann Leon will run a plant dyeing workshop in Byron Bay on March 27 and 28.
Kirsten Ingemar (right) and Ann Leon will run a plant dyeing workshop in Byron Bay on March 27 and 28.

Kirsten Ingemar says what she loves most about plant dyeing is the simplicity of the technique.

Mordants (dye activators) of iron, copper or aluminium sulphate are combined with – well, whatever you can find in the garden, by the sound of it.

 Leaves, bark, flowers, roots, seeds and even weeds are all potential ingredients for the big cauldron-like pots simmering on the fire, into which the fabrics – mostly silk or wool – are immersed.

“You never know what you’re going to get,” her friend and business partner Anne Leon said.

“It’s like Christmas when you pull the textiles out of the dye.”

 For many years Anne used chemical dyes to screenprint her bold coloured textiles. Then, a couple of years ago, she went to a plant dying workshop run by Kirsten. She was instantly hooked.

“And it smells so much nicer too,” she said. “Brewing up eucalyptus or lemon myrtle, it’s like aromatherapy.”

The two textile artists share a studio in Byron Industrial Estate. The walls are decorated with their collaborative textile designs – subtlety-toned and nature-inspired works with an earthy aesthetic.

Silk scarves and dresses hang on racks. Anne and Kirsten’s new business name is Wrapture.

As well as designing and dyeing textiles they run various workshops, both individually and as a team.

The next is Kirsten’s plant-dyeing weekend, coming up on March 27 and 28. It is a hands-on workshop, she says – playful, accessible and experimental.

“And what I really love is seeing some of them get the bug – their eyes light up,” she said.

 Often, she said people turned up the next day with a bag full of different plants.

And she tells them to be careful when they drive home, because she knows they’ll be distracted by all the trees and plants, wondering which ones they could use.

Anne and Kirsten both enjoy the communal aspect of sitting around the bubbling dye pots.

Both of them enjoy the unpredictability of the process too.

“It’s not for control freaks,” they laugh.

Anne says that even the same leaves or flowers won’t necessarily give the same results a second time.

There are seasonal differences to do with moisture content, weather, all sorts of things.

And unexpected colours – a smoky blue eucalyptus leaf might give an orangey colour.

They feel good, too about the fact that the process is natural and sustainable with minimum impact on the environment.

For inquiries or bookings or to check out other great courses and workshops, ring the Byron Community College on 6684 3374, or go to

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