Tutorial ~ Naturally Dyed Raffia for Basket Making & a sneaky way to keep it tidy

Naturally Dyed Raffia Tutorial & how to keep raffia tidy for basket weaving

Since I first got my hands on some raffia and delved deep into basket making, and then shared it with you guys through The Creative Year – there’s been a whole lot of talk in my Insta and in my home about how the bleep to keep raffia out of the children’s toys, the bed, the floor, the …. well… everywhere. It sure has a way of getting deeply tangled around life and things, and family members. Because we live in a small home and I do my crafting in our lounge-room or in bed, and take it from room to room I had to work out how to keep it under control. So, here’s my

How to Wrangle Raffia tutorial…..

by tutorial I mean a simply little how-to of written instructions. Sorry I didn’t manage to get step by step photo instructions, if you need that just let me know and I’ll talk some photos. This is what you do ::

When I get a big bundle of raffia fresh from Cass at String Harvest*, it’s always tied up on itself, and has a knot at one end keeping it all together. I undo the tied up strings and keep them neatly to one side, then I tie one of those spare threads around the middle of the whole giant bundle, not too tightly but not too loosely – enough so it random threads can be pulled out. I untie the knot keeping it all together (or cut it as a last resort if it won’t untie).

I now have one giant bundle ready to be broken down into smaller bundles. I grab a section that’s about 50 or so raffia strands, or fits in a handful (like holding a bunch of flowers). Pull this whole bundle out as one section, keeping it all neat and together. Then wrap one strand around the middle. Continue doing this with the whole big bundle, until you have lots of smaller bunches of raffia. These are now ready to tie up and use as natural raffia for your basket weaving or perfect to put into the dye pot so you can have all the pretty colours.

You can then fold this mini bundle in half then quarters and use a spare strand to tie it all up. It keeps neat and looking sweet and lovely while it waits for you to use it. If you make the mini bundles just the right size, then you can have a few in your ‘on the go project bag’ for the one basket you’re working on, and keep the rest stored away until you need them. That way you only have a few smaller bundles in use at a time – maybe 3 or 4 depending on what colours you’re weaving with.

When you need a strand of raffia to add to your basket, you simply pull one strand out of the mini bundle, and it keeps the rest contained and not flying all over the place. If you are careful when you pull each strand out, it really does work by keeping your mini bundle tidy.

Naturally Dyed Raffia Tutorial and how to keep raffia tidy, perfect for basket weaving.

I decided I’d share a little tutorial on how to Naturally Dye raffia as well, because it’s such a fun way to create your own colours and make your work different to everyone else’s. If you want an in-depth look at Natural & Botanical Dye then please do check out my online Creative course which shows Raffia Basket Weaving as well as Natural Dye & Indigo vat.

Naturally Dyeing Raffia for Basket Weaving using things from your Kitchen – a tutorial!

You’ll need:
+ Natural raffia that has been undyed or unbleached. Read this to find out about what to look for when buying raffia.
+ A large saucepan – stainless steel is best if possible
+ Turmeric powder or fresh root grated
+ Tea or coffee remains, ie save your tea bags or espresso coffee grounds. Try black, hibiscus or even rooibus tea.
+ Onion skins – both brown and red onions create different colours.

Fill your saucepan with enough water so that your raffia can float freely. Fully wet your raffia (in the kitchen sink is fine); this helps it take the dye better.

In your saucepan, one dye colour at a time, gently heat the water with dye stuffs (that’s the true technical term of what you’re using to dye – ie the turmeric or onion skins). Immerse your wet (but squeezed out) raffia into the pot. Bring it to a very gentle simmer until you’re happy with the depth of colour, could take an hour or so. Turn the heat off, with the lid on and leave overnight. Depending on depth of colour and quality of your raffia you may need to re-heat again the next day. Raffia can take many days to develop a strong colour, or it can take the colour after only a few hours. It depends on what you’re dyeing with, the quantity of your dye stuff and the quality of your raffia.

Quantity of dye stuffs to raffia can vary depending on each dye, it’s particular strength and what depth of colour you want. But basically the more dye you have the brighter, deeper, clearer the colour will be. Onion skins you’d want same weight of skins to raffia, turmeric will need a good couple of tablespoons of fresh powder to 100g of raffia, tea & coffee might need a lot more to create deep colours.

If you want to dye lots of different colours at a time,  once you’ve done the initial hour heating in the saucepan transfer the raffia and dye water into a large glass jar, while still warm, and with the lid on you can leave it in the sun for a few days to further develop colour. I love solar dyeing – it’s a great way to experiment with colour and dye stuffs, and you have pretty jars of coloured water on your verandah / windowsill / garden.

Wash the raffia well when you’re happy with the colour and allow to dry – which can take a couple of days even in warm weather.

I like my raffia to be dyed in a varigated manner, ie not all one block solid colour. So you can tie some other strands of raffia around the bundle to create simple Shibori marks, which means when you weave your basket you’ll get patterns of colour, rather than blocks of colour.

Naturally dyed raffia tutorial for basket weaving by Petalplum

hand woven raffia basket using naturally dyed raffia, dyed from kitchen scraps & pantry supplies and a tutorial for naturally dyeing raffia

If you want to know more about raffia, the sustainability of where it comes from and more, then you can read this mini-interview I did with Cass from String Harvest.

*this post is not sponsored or anything, I just really do like to support and promote Indie business whenever I can. Cass can post raffia worldwide, but if you happen to know someone outside of Australia selling ethical raffia I’d love to hear so I can promote them as well.

Natural Dye with Turmeric - a tutorial by Ellie Beck Petalplum

Naturally dyeing fabric with Turmeric – a how to tutorial

Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum

Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum

The smell of turmeric naturally dyed on fabric takes me straight back to when my mother made fairy costumes for my sister and me. She dyed white singlets and endless swathes of tulle in a big pot of turmeric. I can remember that we both smelled like that wonderful spice for the whole party. What sweet flower fairies we were!

Turmeric is fabulous and super easy for special events such as a party dress, to decorate a wedding or event, to show children how to make colour in a safe manner, and even great for dyeing eggs for Easter time. Turmeric is what’s called a fugitive dye; this means that the colour will fade pretty quickly regardless of anything you do to it (mordanting wise). But please be aware that the colour will fade in the sunshine and run out in the wash really quickly. Despite that it’s a magical colour to dye with and makes me smile every single time!

Some notes before you start: remember that natural dyeing and some natural plant based dyes can be toxic. If you intend to boil and dye in your kitchen, please only do so in a well ventilated space and use a pot you won’t be using for food purposes. Do some research before you head out foraging for plant material. Wear gloves to protect your hands from any chemicals or chemical reactions.
Also, the process of natural dyeing is such that results vary with materials and quantities used. You cannot expect to achieve perfection or repeat performances; you will instead be surprised and amazed each time you unfold your fabric – and that is better than perfection any day!

Turmeric Natural Dyeing - PetalplumYou will need:
+ Some plain undyed natural fibres. You can use linen, hemp, cotton, wool or silk. Silk is often the easiest to achieve brighter colours than plant based fibres; but you’ll find through experiments that different fibres give different results. Use pieces of fabric, as well as lengths of yarn.
+ Turmeric powder, from your health food shop or the spice section of your supermarket. Find the brightest freshest powder you can find. Or freshly grated turmeric root if you can get that.
+ A big saucepan, glass jars with lids, rubber bands, pegs, string.

:: 4L of water and 4 heaped tablespoons of turmeric.

To start with:
Soak your material in cold water, so that it is totally wet. This allows the dye to permeate all the way through.
Half fill your pot with tap water, add the turmeric powder. The amount of powder you use will depend on how much you are dyeing and how vibrant you want the colour. I don’t measure.
Bring the water to the boil, and add your wrung-out materials (you can strain off any un-disolved powder before adding your fabric, but I don’t bother). At this stage you can either let it simmer on the stove top until the desired colour has been achieved, or you can fill your glass jars with the fabric and the dye water and place it outside in the sun to continue dyeing for a few days. This is called solar dyeing.
{I love solar dyeing as it gives you the chance of watching the colour develop over days to a week. You aren’t using gas or electricity to dye your items, just harnessing the heat of the sun (you could even build a solar oven if you wanted to boil your water that way!). And those colour-filled jars sure look pretty sitting in your garden. (Just make sure the lid is tightly secured and your jars are away from children and pets). }
Once you are happy with your colour, rinse out the fabric. Hang to dry in the shade; your piece will fade in full sun.  Turmeric is a fugitive dye, which means it doesn’t last as long as some other natural dyes; but I have found that some fabrics take the colour and keep it better than others, so testing your own fabrics is the best thing.

Turmeric Natural Dyeing - PetalplumTurmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum

Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum

Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum

To achieve the different patterns on my fabrics I use the following techniques:
Shibori folding: This is an age-old Japanese technique of folding or stitching fabric to achieve amazing patterns and shapes. This is an art-form in itself. At this stage, I have neither the time nor inclination to be stitching work just to unpick it (though I crazily admire those who do!), maybe one day I will…

For this pattern, I simply fold and continue to fold the fabric into squares onto itself, in a concertina manner. Then secure it tightly with pegs or clips along the edges, or wrap it with twine (which will also dye).

Dip dyed:
An easy and beautifully effective way of allowing the natural process of the coloured water moving up the fabric. This always reminds me of the marks left on sand by waves – you know that slightly transparent line left behind. Ombre continues to be popular – so why not try your hand at making mountain peaks.
Start with one end of your fabric in the dye, and the rest hanging out. Leave for at least half and hour. Then slowly move the fabric down into the water a little bit more. Do this as many times as you want, each time leaving it for about half an hour in between. The amount of time you wait before you lower the fabric in, will determine how dramatic the colour change is. Being a natural dye, this process will not be as predictable as with chemical dye.
Scrunch effect:
I simply tightly scrunch and then tie (with string that will become coloured as well) or peg the fabric. Place it into the glass bottle and cover with dye. Put a stone on top to weigh it down if need be. Leave this for at least a few days, without agitating or moving it about. The dye will settle into different sections of the scrunch to create the marks; if you move it too many times it won’t be as dramatic pattern.
If you’re interested in doing any natural & botanical dye, be sure to check out my online natural dye course filled with natural dye love, or perhaps I’ve got a workshop coming up soon nearby to you.
* this is my most popular blog post ever from my old blog, Petalplum with over 20,000 hits on the one post. Wow – you guys really love sunshine colour!