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Barrie Cohen and the Process of Natural Dyeing

I’m intrigued with natural dyeing, but find it intimidating. For some reason I can hardly believe that avocado skins will do that, and if I fail I really don’t want to waste that much fabric or yarn. As fate would have it I ran into Barrie Cohen’s Instagram account and saw all of her wonderful work. I had such a great time connecting with her and talking about her lovely natural dyeing pieces and the basics of understanding this world.

Barrie spent the last four years of her life at farms, cultivating her passion for organic food and farming. During that experience of being in touch with nature she learned about indigenous people and their dyeing techniques. What began as a simple exploration of process has mushroomed into her full time job.

When talking about my own uneasiness with trying out natural dyeing she was assuring, “It’s totally intimidating but that’s the fun of it, it’s all an experiment and process.” Thankfully Barrie has given me some information from her own experimentation to ease the process and answer some of my questions, I hope it helps you take the leap to try out this technique too!

Favorite dyes: 

 Marigolds, eucalyptus, sunflower, and Kremer Pigments.

“I like to have flowers around the house and tear them apart when dead. I read somewhere that if a plant has a strong scent it will likely make it a good dye.”

Techniques: 

  • Bundle dyeing: take plants and wrap them up in fabric (see image above) and put in a steamer. Leaves an imprint on fabric, almost like stamping.
  • Dye baths: Boil plant in water (image below), this extracts color from the plant.
  • Block printing: Carved stamp, used to press dye into fabric. Another type of ink “discharge”

Barrie Cohen Dye Bath

Inspiration sources: 

What she’s doing now:

Barrie moved back to the city to be closer to friends and family, and is currently living in Brooklyn. Now she tries to find out how to incorporate her love for the country and nature into the city with her dye garden, by foraging, and hiking on the weekends. See her gorgeous work in person (if you live in New York) at Shwick Market on June 19th or the Bulletin Market on June 25th and June 26th. If you don’t live in New York, follow her on Instagram.

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