Natural Dyeing with Designer Alice Temperley

Alice Temperley MBE We’re thrilled to have been mentioned in an article by Rachael Dove in The Evening Standard recently. “How to dye your old clothes with Alice Temperley” shares how to bring new life to discarded garments – using Fibrecrafts Natural Dyes!

Award winning British designer Alice Temperley MBE, explains how she uses Madder, Cochineal and Logwood to dye silk, cotton and viscose. We think her effective method is worth sharing here.

Materials List

  • Natural Dye(s)
  • Cider vinegar
  • Water
  • Clothing made from natural fibres (silk, wool, viscose, linen, cotton)

Tools for Dyeing

  • Stainless steel bowls or glass jars
  • A large saucepan
  • Rubber gloves
  • Plastic bucket or sink/bath

“Alice Temperley on dying your old clothes”

  1. Alice soaks her garments in water for 24 hours prior to dyeing, this is to ensure that the material is fully wetted.
    It is important to check if the item requires washing to remove any grease, oil or starch as this may prevent the dye colour from absorbing. Run a few droplets of cold water onto the fabric. If they soak in quickly, no scour is necessary. To remove soiling, add 5ml of Synthrapol (a non-ionic detergent) to 2-3 litres of water for each 100g of material. Stir gently for about 15 minutes then rinse thoroughly in warm water. Household detergent can be used but may leave an alkaline residue, this can be helped by adding a tablespoon of vinegar to the final rinse.
  2. Some natural dyes will bond to the fibre just as they are, while others will need a mordant, such as Alum, to fix the colour to the fabric and make it washfast. Alice’s technique uses Cider Vinegar.
  3. She first mixes her dyestuff into boiling water and allows it to steep in the liquid for a couple of hours (stirring the mixture every 20 minutes or so will help to release the colour).
    The quantity of natural dye required will vary depending on which dyestuff is used, the method employed to extract the colour, the quality of the water, and the type of fibre to be dyed. As an indicator, the dry weight of 500g of materials will require approximately 250g dried madder to produce a medium red, whilst just 30g of Cochineal will be required for the same quantity of material. Increasing the amount of dyestuff will intensify colours. We recommend experimentation, and if you wish to repeat colour results, careful note keeping of the methods used.
  4. When ready, the dye solution is sieved to remove the dyestuff.
    Some dyers use a muslin or fine mesh bag to make a “tea bag” from the natural dye so that it does not have to be sieved.
  5. The next stage is to make the dye bath. Half a cup of vinegar is added to a large saucepan full of warm water and then heat it until hand hot before thoroughly stirring in the dye liquor.
    You may want to add Alum to the dye bath to help with light fastness. Use 50g Alum to 250g dry weight of fabric, dissolve in boiling water, add to the dye bath and then stir.
  6. Alice then adds her wetted garment which is moved around in the dye bath until the fabric is evenly dyed.
  7. The final stage is to remove the item from the dye bath, before rinsing in hot water and then cold and until the water runs clear.

Alice Temperley’s popular designs are sold through her website Temperley London and other retailers