Book review: Seasonal Plant Dyes by Alicia Hall

This is my second recent review of a new book on natural dyes! The first was The Wild Dyer by Abigail Booth, reviewed at this link.

I'll reiterate the point with which I opened that prior review: in the field of theatrical costume production, there's not much focus on natural dyes. Costume designers are devoted to color control, and when I'm asked to dye something for a show, I'm given a Pantone color or fabric swatch to which I must color-match. Color control can be difficult with any dyestuff, but natural dyes require significant experience to exert the level of control the theatrical discipline requires. That said, I can envision conceptual productions or theater companies for whom natural dyeing was a conscious choice on behalf of the creative team or the organization itself.

The book is basically divided in two parts: the first six chapters on the methodology of harvesting and using plants as dyes, then the final four chapters using the cycle of the seasons as an organizational structure to cover what plants to use when. (This is another good reason why natural dyes are not used much in theatrical production--we often don't have time to wait for the cycle of the seasons to provide the supplies for the proper color! A designer would have to decide to restrict their design to the palette of a given season.)

I love the way this book is structured. In order to fully understand how to use the dyes in a given season to make the accompanying project, those first six chapters are must-reads. They cover how to harvest plants for maximum color yield, how to choose fabrics with a fiber content with which the dyes can react, what tools you'll need, and various dye processes and recipe additions such as lemon juice or vinegar (acids) and chalk or wood ash (alkalis).

This book is more of a gardener's perspective at natural dyes, whereas the prior title i reviewed (The Wild Dyer) was more of a forager/cook's point of view.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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