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Traditional Dyeing (Paperback)

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Art > Decorative Arts & Crafts P&S History

By Lynn Huggins-Cooper
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Series: Heritage Crafts and Skills
Pages: 176
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526724564
Published: 9th May 2022



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This book offers a whistle-stop guide to the history of dyeing. The story begins in prehistory when people discovered and used the glory of colours created by earth pigments, plants and more. We move through history from the medieval dye gardens to the horrors of chemical dyes from the Victorian era that damaged watercourses, created pollution and caused terrible sickness and untold deaths. Today, along with safe commercial dyes, modern ‘cottage industries’ are once more the leaders in the innovative use of dye plants.

The second part of the book brings us up to date, via interviews with modern day artisans. These dye workers generously allowed the author access to their studios and creative lives and discussed the way they use and adapt traditional methods, techniques and tools for the twenty-first century. Photos of their craft offers a unique window into the world of dyes.

Finally, if you are inspired to try your hand at this fascinating craft, the book has a section that explains simple eco dyeing and planning your own dye garden. It also has a resources section containing a valuable list of suppliers of plants, seeds, dyes, tools and materials, as well as information about training courses, useful websites and more – everything you need to get started!

4 out of 5 Stars

I have been long interested in the processes used in past times for producing soft furnishings and clothing, so dyeing using traditional methods is something I am very keen to know more about.

I loved reading about the experimentation in the past to find colour dyes, something we completely take for granted today. I couldn’t help imagining housewives with their hands accidentally coloured by dyes they discovered as well as their clothes. It must have taken much experimentation to find pleasing colours and consistency. You can also imagine whole villages clad in the same possibly awful colour palette.

My ultimate ambition would be to process my own wool fleece through to spinning the wool and applying my own dyes from the garden to produce unique items of clothing. Having said that, this book has led me to discover some uniquely dyed yarns in internet shops produced by some of the artisans interviewed.

As an aside, I think this book would also be useful for historical novelists wishing to add some authentic detail to their novels.

I found the most exciting chapter was Chapter 10 where the author gives step by step instructions for having a go at dying a piece of fabric. Itching to have a go now …

Amazon Customer, Jayne

As a knitter, spinner, crocheter and sewist who has done just a bit of dyeing at home, I was very interested in this book. The reader gets not only the history and progression of dyeing, but a section on how to do some natural dyeing yourself.

NetGalley, Karen Ellsworth

A really good and informative book for anyone wanting to get into this craft as a business or for pleasure.

Read the full review here

The History Fella

Lynn Huggins-Cooper gives us a comprehensive and thoroughly absorbing account of the practice of dyeing in all its forms, from prehistory to the modern day.

Books Monthly

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love experimenting with dye. For years now I have got some fabulous results from eco dyeing in Australia with native trees, I have use other plants too, but they are hard to source, and/or grow in our climate. Therefore to read this book with the many artisans interviews talking about their experience with dye was fabulous,
I also found the history of dyes through the ages extremely informative and very interesting. We take color in fabric and wool so much for granted these day, it is very sobering to read about it first uses.

NetGalley, Leyla Johnson

This is a thorough and interesting book on the history of natural dyes. It goes through every time period and then has an extensive interview section with artisans who do traditional dyeing, with their advice and experiences and links to their blogs and social media connections...
An interesting resource. Recommended for anyone curious about the topic.

NetGalley, Alicia Bayer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is the newest book in the Heritage Crafts series which cover many traditional and heritage subjects such as leatherworking and tanning, dyeing, fibre crafts, felting, and others which are in danger of being lost forever. This book makes a nice addition to the series and provides a surprisingly comprehensive look at dyeing as both a practical and decorative skill.

The material is presented in chronological chapters with history from ancient times to the modern day. With such a massive timeline, the coverage is brief for each time period, but provides a lot of tantalizing glimpses to follow up later. The last chapters include interviews with several different individual artisans and collectives. The format provides the same questions to each interviewee and it's interesting to see how they came to their craft from often disparate origins, cultures, and geographical locations but their enthusiasm and respect is shared by all of them.

The photography is sparse and mostly confined to a gallery chapter at the end of the book, but the included pictures are beautifully clear and illustrative. There is a short general tutorial (for direct printing on fabric with botanicals), short discussion of plants which are suited to a dye garden, as well as a wealth of links provided (slanted toward readers in the UK) in the form of a solid bibliography and links section to stockists and teachers. This would make a superlative library selection for a guild or shop, as well as for any crafter's home library.

This is a good, accessible, clearly written introduction the materials, history, and techniques in dyeing. The series as a whole would be superlative for library acquisition, maker's groups, homesteaders, historical re-enactors, and similar uses. The inspiration gallery is full of gorgeous photos.

NetGalley, Annie Buchanan

About Lynn Huggins-Cooper

Lynn Huggins-Cooper is a widely published author. When she is not writing, she is in the studio creating art for exhibition. She is a textiles artist, working in natural and found materials, and mixed media, and her work is influenced by the 360 hectare woodland that begins at the bottom of her garden. She is a member of the Heritage Crafts Association, and the International Felt makers Association. She is also a mentor for Applied Arts Scotland. She lives with her husband in the north-east of England.

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