Wasting to Dye

A class that can be adapted for an educational environment or used as an open community class.

Educational Class

Key Stage One/Two Curriculum


  • lengths – comparing lengths
  • mass and weight – using measuring tools including weighing tools
  • capacity and volume – using measuring tools including liquid measurement
  • time – recording time
  • shapes – recognising squares, rectangles
  • geometry – whole, half, quarter


  • identify and describe the basic structure of a variety of common flowering plants.
  • explore and compare the differences between things that are living and dead
  • find out and describe how plants need water, light and a suitable temperature to grow and stay healthy

    We can also cover reversible and irreversible change by looking at the difference between dyes and stains.

    For an educational class the children will look at a history of natural dyeing, general household waste and growing items that can be used to extract dye. Plants can be brought into the class or if the school has a garden we can look at plants growing outside. The children will be encouraged to work out what part of the plant they feel dye can be extracted from.

    They will be using small square silk hankies which dye easily and retain bright colours. These can be kept and used for other project work. I also use mine to sew small lavender bags.


    Two techniques will be employed during the session:

    Immersion Dyeing –  using Shibori technique which is an ancient Japanese art of folding cloth to create pattern through the dyeing process.

    Steam Dyeing – placing of plant part directly onto cloth, then wrapped around a stick before being steamed for 20 minutes. The dye is processed directly onto the cloth often leaving a good outline of plant itself.

    All Photos taken at a community class run by Cordwainers Grow

    Further practices can come from the class in so far as kitchen waste from the school canteen can be gathered prior to the class to be used – please ask for details on how to do this.

    A small dye garden can also be developed to be used in further teacher led programmes. Staff can be taught safe and quick practices to show children basic immersion dyeing. I am happy to organise this and work with classes of children in sewing seeds, planting and discussing maintenance of the plot. Worksheets can be left with the school to cover the ongoing development of this.

    Solar dyeing kits can also be made using recycled materials. These are completly safe for children of all ages to use as no hot water is employed at the point of construction. The dyeing takes time over one-two weeks on a window sill in direct sunlight. After this time the hankies can be removed from the water/plant solution, rinsed in a sink and the patterning explored. Again worksheets can be left with the school to cover this activity.

    Please call 07493 244315 or email debmitchener@gmail.com to discuss lesson plans or community classes.


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