Catch the colour of autumn

Autumn colour dye

You will need:
• 2 carrier bags full of the reddest autumn leaves you can find
• A large pan
• Water
• Salt
• A large glass or ceramic jar

Words by:
Nikki Bawn
Featured in:
November 2023

Nikki Bawn of Boggle Lane Foods celebrates nature’s colourful offerings across our county’s landscapes.

The symphony of autumnal hues in all their brilliance is ready to be captured in ways that may surprise you. Glorious golds and reds bring magic to our wild wanders and foragers everywhere will no doubt be bagging quite a few of them to use their showstopping colours for a whole host of creations.

There’s more to leaf fall than just mulch because the reddest, showiest leaves can be used to dye fabrics and create stunning foliage displays that will brighten any room.

There’s a plentiful palette to satisfy even the most demanding and I guarantee that everything you produce will be striking and unique.

For millennia, foragers have used nature for far more than nutrition and healing; they have brightened both dwellings and cloth using berries, bark and leaves. The spectrum of shades that can be produced from nature is truly mind-boggling.

So, whether you are looking to fill your vases with a fantastic foliage display or you fancy finding your hidden talent for interior design, now is the time to tap into the final flush of beauty before winter’s slumber sets in across our Lincolnshire landscapes.

Using natural colour
The list of natural colour candidates for your dye-making is a long one and includes everything from onions to crab-apple bark. For those who are new to this wildcraft, I’d recommend starting by collecting the reddest autumn leaves you can find to make your dye.

With the festive season around the corner, you could even have a go at making homemade gifts.

Using a rubber band to tie a knot in the centre of cotton squares before steeping them in the dye will create eye-catching napkin designs, perfect for a designer dinner. You could also experiment with plain cotton long sleeve t-shirts to create a collection of bespoke pyjama tops – the possibilities are endless and once you get going you might find this is a hobby which is positively addictive. Who said you have to spend a fortune to create priceless presents!

• Wash and dry the leaves, then place them in your pan.

• Fill the pan with water until the leaves are submerged.

• Place the pan on the hob and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.• Turn off the heat and leave the pan to cool.

• Place a lid on the pan and leave the leaves to steep for 12 hours.

• Drain the liquid through a sieve into a clean glass or ceramic jar.

• Using salt will help to fix the colour when you use your dye and don’t forget to wear gloves when you do!

• Use your natural dye to colour home fabrics, clothes or craft items and even wall art.

• I recommend using cotton or linen cloth; as always, the more natural the better. You can try different combinations of leaves, berries and plants to create your own unique collection of colourful results. It’s a low-cost pursuit that delivers maximum fulfilment.

I wish you many hours of foraged fun, enjoy!

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