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Nettle Colour at Your Fingertips

2nd May 2021 Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day on this Sunday, 2nd May. You still have time to create something nice for your Mom with your own two hands. Let’s handcrafting with nettle!

Did you know that nettle is one of the most beautiful natural colouring plants? It is widely used for centuries as nettle leaves make a lovely green dye thanks to its chlorophyll content. Today, some creative minded people rediscovered this use of nettle and became professional botanical dyers

Here is an example of dying fabric with nettle. First, try it with a small piece of cotton or linen fabric (or a white handkerchief) to explore how it works, later you might use it bravely dying your favourite clothes as well.

Use separate equipment from your usual kitchen equipment.

1. Place nettles in a large aluminium pot and fill it with just enough water to cover the nettles.

2. Place the dye pot on the stove and heat very gently. As the leaves soften, push them down below the water level. Stop heating once the water reaches simmering point.

3. Check your colour regularly, if you want a deeper colour heat the dye again. Monitor the colour over the next day and observe the colour change of the liquid. It goes from yellow to green to dark grey-green.

4. Strain out the leaves when you are happy with the colour of your dye.

5. Pour the dye back into your aluminium dye pot and heat gently for a few minutes. Now the leaves aren’t in the dye, you might choose to use a slightly higher heat. Over the next few hours observe the dye further darken in colour.

6. Add in some extra water to raise the level so there’s more space for your fabric to move about.

7. When you’re happy with the dye colour, add in your fabric then heat gently and stir with a spoon to help it dye evenly. Simmer the fabric and ensure it’s submerged under the dye at all times.

8. Allow to soak for as long as you like, and reheat a couple of times if you feel it needs it. Stir the fabric whenever you pass, just to move things about so it dyes evenly.

9. After a day or so, take the fabric out, squeeze out the excess dye and allow it to hang to dry. Wait a few days before rinsing out the excess dye.

Then, if you want, iron your grey-green fabric for fixing this gentle colour you’ve worked so hard.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Dye your Easter Egg with Nettle :)

Easter is upon us, so it’s time to prepare the eggs. The practise of decorating eggshells is quite ancient and appears in many nations’ traditions somehow. In Europe we colour chicken eggs and the latest finds show that ostrich eggs have a long history of being used as art in South Africa. People were carving symbolic patterns into these eggs as early as 60,000 years ago.

There are a lot of traditions of using eggs as a decoration, a nice gift or a game you can play with your kids. Boiled eggs or empty egg shells, it’s up to you which one you prefer to decorate.

Making anything yourself is always more fun than buying it in a supermarket. This year, go wild (literally) and make Easter natural dyes with foraged plants that you find in the wild or in your garden. The coloured eggs you’ll get won’t be as bright as when you use chemical dyes but the colouring part is a great kitchen science experiment. Forget the chemical tablets, use onion, dandelion, tree bark, beetroot, red cabbage or nettle to achieve lovely natural results with plants.

Here is an example how to dye boiled eggs with nettle:

Making the botanical pattern
  1. Use a bunch of freshly picked nettle (chopped) or a cup of dried nettle, place them in a pot.
  2. Double the amount of water to plant material.
  3. Bring to a boil covered, then lower the heat and simmer covered for about 5 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and let it cool, still covered.
  5. Strain.
  6. If you’d like to make botanical patterns on your eggs, pick small leaves (clover, yarrow leaves, tiny ferns), flowers (chickweed), or herbs (cilantro, parsley) in your garden. Use nylon stockings that should be wrapped around the egg to keep the plants in place. Tie a string around the base to secure the stocking.
  7. Cook the eggs directly in the nettle tea (white eggs will be easier to colour but it’s your choice).
  8. Strain and let them dry.
Nettle green Easter eggs

Dying with stinging nettle guarantees vibrant green eggs.

When the eggs are dry, remove the nylon stockings. You can make these shiny by putting oil on a paper towel and rubbing the eggs with it.

Egg-cellent green eggs!

Bright blue egg colored with red cabbage