Natural Dyes - Michel Garcia & Claire Benn 2017

Natural Dyeing - 2.jpg
Natural Dyeing - 2.jpg
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Natural Dyes - Michel Garcia & Claire Benn 2017


Introduction to using Natural Dyes the Garcia Method on Cellulose Fibres

This course is the perfect introduction for those who are new to dyeing with plants on cellulose fibres.  It is suitable for beginners and although a level of chemistry will be discussed, it’ll be in layman’s terms!

 Dates:  September 17th - 21st 2017

Course Fee: £525

Material Fees will be paid directly to Claire at the end of the class.

Deposit £275 payable on booking


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 Michel is the chemist with a wealth of experience in natural dyes.  Claire is the textile artist with a wealth of surface design experience, and she now uses Michel’s methods for natural dyeing.  

This workshop will be tailored for the use of natural dyes on cellulose fibres only, and will enable students to:

  • Appreciate pre-treatment of the cloth to enable flexibility in mordanting, and to increase light-fastness of colour
  • Understand and experience the three key mordants of Ferrous, Aluminium and Titanium
  •  Produce a range of sample charts showing what colours these mordants (and combinations thereof) produce from different plants (and guidance will be given on some key plants in terms of colour ranges)
  • Explore liquid and thickened mordants with various surface design techniques
  • Use citric acid as a mordant discharge, prior to dyeing

The workshop will also introduce indigo using the Garcia ‘1-2-3’ method; a sustainable, organic indigo vat which is environmentally friendly, easy to use and incredibly easy to maintain – a vat which can last years – if not indefinitely.  With blue in the spectrum, we can travel into limitless colour possibilities.  And, combined with the use of soy wax resist, we can also introduce surface design in conjunction with indigo.


Items specific to the Garcia Method will be organised for students and is covered by the supplies fee.  Working with Michel, Claire has revised and ‘anglicised’ his key handouts and recipes and a set will be provided for each student.

  •  Plant pigments, indigo pigment, chemicals and fixatives: all of the necessary ingredients for the different processes (although you’ll be doing some ‘harvesting’ around the studio for some raw materials).
  • Tools: the studio has a good range of tools for you to use for surface design processes.
  • Miscellaneous items: a whole range of ‘stuff’ (urns for the dyeing process, measuring beakers etc.) and equipment will be organised and set up in the studio.

As getting experience at mixing the base acetates, liquid mordants, gum paste (for thickened mordants) and citric acid discharge paste is an important part of the learning process, students will (in the main) be mixing their own supplies, under Michel & Claire’s guidance.

Note: The supplies fee is estimated at £40 per student maximum - it may be less and if so, Claire will advise you.  Please pay Claire direct during the workshop, in cash.



This is a sampling workshop!  You’ll produce up to 8 gradation and exchange samples which will enable you to see what up to 8 plant colourants/types give you using the three key mordants.  Having generated these, you’ll then use this knowledge combined with surface design techniques to produce more considered samples of a larger size, and use the indigo vat.  Please follow the guidelines below and for the ‘considered’ samples, please do not plan to work larger – working smaller allows you to explore a greater variety of processes and combinations.

Your Cloth – cellulose fibre only please!

Whilst it is also possible to use natural dyes on protein fibres such as silk and wool, this workshop is focused on using them on cellulose fibres such as cotton, linen, bamboo, rayon or hemp.  As such, please only bring good quality cloth made from cellulose fibres as the workshop WILL NOT cover natural dyeing on protein fibres.

Even if your cloth is PFD (Prepared for Dyeing), please scour it.  Experience shows that even better results are obtained if you scour. 

To scour:

  •  Dissolve 150ml tablespoons of soda ash (sodium carbonate) in 1 litre of warm water and put in the drum of the washing machine.
  • Add a squirt of hand wash liquid or washing detergent.
  • Load the fabric into washing machine (do not over-pack or over-fill – about 5 metres at a time, no more).
  • Set the machine for a complete ‘cotton’ cycle, at 60°C – a ‘hot wash’ cycle.
  • Once this scouring cycle has finished, run the machine for a second time on a cotton cycle, set to either 40 or 60°C.  This second wash is important to ensure all traces of soda ash are removed from the cloth.

So, how much will you need…

Initial sampling fabric:  we would like to pre-treat your sampling cloth before the workshop (you will learn about pre-treatment during the workshop and have the opportunity to pre-treat the rest of your fabric).  As such, a list of available cloth is shown below and we will cut to the correct sampling lengths and pre-treat on your behalf.  If the selvedge width of the cloth you choose is 150cm, you’ll need 2.5 metres – if it’s less than that you’ll need 3 metres.  When choosing your cloth, try to pick a type of cloth you feel you’re likely to use on a regular basis.

  • Cotton sateen (280cm selvedge width)
  • Kona cotton (110cm selvedge width)
  • Bleached pre-scoured linen (150cm selvedge width)
  • Unbleached pre-scoured linen (150cm selvedge width)
  • Cotton canvas (203cm selvedge width)

If you feel strongly about supplying your own sampling chart cloth, then please leave or send sufficient fabric to The C2C studio NO LATER than Tuesday 12th September.

‘Considered’ work on days three, four and five: bring enough scoured fabric to get you twelve pieces measuring no more than 50x50cm, or the equivalent.  Again, working to a limited size will enable you to explore a greater number of combinations/approaches, and we need to consider the capacity of the vats at any one time.  I would recommend that you don’t pre-cut as you’ll then be able to experiment with different formats as you proceed.  You should need approximately 3 to 5 yards, depending on the selvedge width of your chosen fabric.

General Supplies

Two dropcloths: please bring dropcloths that are sturdy: drill cotton or denim in a neutral colour are best as they are sturdy enough to flip over and use both sides before washing is needed.  Old sheets are too thin and avoid heavy-weight muslin or canvas as it tends to hold wrinkles.  Your dropcloths need to measure 2.25 x 1.5m, once scoured and shrunk.

  •  Thermofax screens: thermofax use will not be the focus of the class but it can be worth bringing a small selection of thermofaxes – up to five.
  •  A hairdryer (which we hopefully won’t need, but just in case!).
  •  One roll of 2” masking tape and two rolls of 1” masking tape.
  • Rubber gloves (suggest 2 pairs), or a box of disposable gloves.
  • 1 x box of ball-headed or T pins.
  • 1 x black Sharpie.
  • Notebook; a good set of handouts will be provided, but it can be useful to record your order of process on individual pieces, or make notes during general discussions.
  •  Pen and pencil.
  • Cloth apron (or wear the equivalent of gardening/decorating clothes).
  • A camera as it’s useful to record work-in-progress or demonstrations.
  • An iPod and headphones if you like to work to music

Please note :

It is important to wear sturdy, flat, rubber-soled sensible shoes with good support. (you’ll be standing a great deal and the floor is concrete).




Please arrive no later than 9.15am on the SUNDAY for a 9.30am start.  Teaching hours will run from 9.30am to 5.  The studio opening hours will be from 8.30am to 5.30pm. If you arrive early bear in mind that the Class does not begin until 9:30 as we may still be setting up. 

On Thursday, the studio will close at prompt at 4:30.


Lunches, tea/coffee and nibbles and fruit will be provided.

See the Accommodation list, which comes with student feedback, if you need to stay locally.

Contact and Directions :

 Leslie Morgan

or Jude Kingshott