I like lists, so here is a list of books that I have found useful for learning eco printing.
1. Eco Colour by India Flint; 2008, Interweave Press. This book changed my life. While causing me to grow as an artisan and craftsperson, it also brought me full circle to a place and time where I was a lot more comfortable in my own skin. It is not an instruction book or recipe book per se, so if you know nothing about natural dyeing, it could be a bit confusing-or the perfect place to start. To have somebody tell me I didn't need to order exotic dye stuffs and that using what I had thought of as toxic mordents was completely unnecessary was exhilarating. It threw out all the notions I had about natural dyeing and opened a whole new world for me.
Some of it is hilarious, the part where she talks about the pros and cons of using cat urine as an adjunct cracks me up. Since I haven't known any cats willing to pee in a cup, I wondered how in the world she got enough to experiment with!
The text is accompanied by lovely photography, making it a beautiful object in and of itself, a place where dreams can grow.
2. Harvesting the Color by Rebecca Burgess; 2011, Artisan.
The author leads you through the seasons while guiding you to plants that for the most part are found or can be grown in North America. The book is geared towards those that work with wool roving (as most seem to be) but much of it can be used or adjusted for dying natural fiber fabrics. It did make me want to travel the country to try out many of the plants she uses. She also uses ecologically responsible mordants etc. This IS a recipe book for those that must have one to follow, but it is not about eco printing-the dye stuffs and mordants she uses are very helpful however.
3. Wild Color by Jenny Dean; 1999 and 2010, Watson-Guptill Publications
This is a great technique and recipe book with a bit of history and back ground thrown in. Many of the dye materials are plants found in North America and she gives good little color swatches along each page with the plant. Again, not about eco printing, but playing around with the pre-mordants and modifiers in a eco print setting can be loads of fun!
4. A Dyer's Garden by Rita Buchanan; 1995, Interweave Press
This is a great guide for growing your own dye plants. She gives a lot of information about the plants themselves and color swatches down the side of each page. She also has a helpful section on what not to grow yourself and why.
5. Craft of the Dyer by Karen Leigh Casselman; 1983, 1993, Dover
I found this book used and almost passed on it and now I am glad I bought it. While she does use mordants I would not use (I tend to convert things like that into "pot as mordant" in one fashion or another) it is a fantastic list of plants, both wild and from the garden with great commentary about extracting color from them. No photos, but she does give the scientific name for each plant so you can do a quick search to see what it looks like.
6. Plant Guides
I am a geek about plant guides-I have tons of them. I really like the ones from Lone Pine press as they have good images and descriptions and a notes section that tells you all sorts of weird fun facts about the plants, including whether anybody used them for color or not. I also own weed, tree and wild flower guides for the Inland and Pacific Northwest. All of which live mostly on the back seat of my car to be used when needed. Many state and county weed boards have come up with weed ID apps, which are great if you have a cell signal, not terribly useful if you don't. Low tech as it may be, books on the back seat very often work out the best!
Please note, I did not provide links to purchase these books on line on purpose. It would really help out your local independent bookseller if you went to them first. No local independent bookseller left in your area? Then at least go to the local version of the big box bookstore and buy them there-the folks in your town that work there need their jobs and the way they get to keep them is if big companies know that a real book store is important enough for you to shop there. Thanks!
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