Knowing where our products come from is a treat in our current consumer culture. It is also something that I am hoping to be very clear about. Gathering materials from trusted sources is a must for Botanical Fibres.
I am sourcing as many bases as possible from across Canada and calling it my Northern collection. The mills/companies I choose to work with from other countries are trustworthy and share my values.
One of the many reasons I love natural dyes is that the possibilities are endless. I am always playing around with new ideas when it comes to dyestuffs and love that I can collect wild plants and save kitchen scraps and turn them into beautiful colours. I am also very into natural dye extracts. They are stuffs that have already had the dye extracted or been dried and ground for easy measuring/use. For these I have a Canadian supplier that gets them fair trade from India. They are beautiful! Mostly I choose extracts that come from plants that do not grow here successfully. I also get extracts of colours that I use too often to be able to grow or gather myself. An added benefit is that they are easily recreated. Many of my permanent colours will be from extracts for this reason.
One large difference between the process of natural and synthetic dyeing is the time. The dyes aren't being chemically attached to the yarns so it takes much longer to coax them into loving each other.
There are now two, three, or four steps instead of one - all adding patience to the process but also all adding opportunity for creative adjustments.
First, I wash/mordant. This is an incredibly important step as it helps to bond the dye to the fibre. It does not result in any immediate colour change but can be used to alter the colours in the following stage. This generally takes a few hours then an overnight sit to cool.
When using dye stuffs and certain extracts you begin by pulling the dye out of the objects. This can take hours of simmering and straining repeatedly to ensure that you are left with exhausted objects and a powerful pot of dye.
Finally my favourite - the dyeing. I use mainly immersion methods and play with the position of the yarns in the pot, as well as pot size and highest temperature/length of time submerged to tweak the colour in this exciting step. This takes a similar amount of time as the mordant stage, with an overnight resting period.
Being sure to exhaust the dye bath is another important factor in my process - an exhausted dye bath ensures that all I am left with is some tinted water and fibres that have fully accepted the dye. If I pull a batch to rinse and am not happy with how the pot looks I will do another round of dyeing in the same pot to use up the remaining dye. If I am unhappy with the colour I get from the weakened bath I can always overdye it later. This also means when rinsing my yarn I am rinsing tinted water - not dye - down the drain. (Not that the residue of flowers and veggies would hurt the earth/my pipes) :)
Hope this answered some of your questions about what I do and what I value in my process!