We've been having so much fun trying out different techniques for making our own fabrics! We've tried printing, Inkodye, fabric fun pens, photo transfers and home dyeing. Recently we tried out natural dyeing for the first time! Natural dyeing is using items found in nature (fruits, vegetables, insects, etc.) to color fabrics. It can be a lot of fun but the results are often quite inconsistent. We consulted our friend Missy about what items to try first and she suggested onions—so we did along with beets. Here's how it all went down:1. Choose items that are made of natural fibers (like cotton, wool, bamboo). I used a thrifted denim skirt and a homemade jersey scarf. 2. Pre-treat the garment(s) in a mordant. There are different kinds of mordant treatments but I mixed hot water (enough for my fabrics to move freely in) with 2 teaspoons alum and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar for 1 hour. 3. Chop up your vegetables and simmer them in hot water for 1 hour. Strain out most of the veggies and add your fabric. I let mine soak in the hot water (as it cooled) for about 5 hours. 4. Rinse garment(s) and then soak in a vinegar wash; using 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water for 20-30 minutes. Hand wash and dry. While the yellow onion skirt turned out really pretty our beet jersey scarf was a fail. Bummer! Since we used the exact same method for both this was very surprising. It may be that brighter/deeper colors need to soak in the dye bath longer. Also, since we had made the jersey scarf from scratch we had not washed the fabric prior to dying (while the thrifted skirt had been washed many times before). So that may have also contributed to how to the color didn't take well. Live and learn!Thanks for letting us share our first adventures with natural dyeing. We are hoping to try out some different techniques and natural dyeing materials soon—it's fun learning something new! If you have done your own natural dyeing experiments and have any tips or suggestions you'd like to share let us know. xo. emma and elsie
Adventures in Natural Dyeing: Part I
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Hi to all, how is the whole thing, I think every one is getting more from this web page.
i’ve done a lot of natural dying, and i’ve found that beets always fail me. they are beautiful when cooked and to eat, but the dye/color they “stain” your cutting board never lasts in the fabric.
Onion skins are amazing though! I usually let the fabric soak longer, and the dye turns out an incredible golden or even peach color. Here’s a picture of a wearable-sculpture I made using this process! http://www.aliyarosebonar.com/interlocking-shells
looking forward to more posts like this!
Thanks for putting this together….always love natural method
Hey ladies! I’m a student at Rhode Island School of Design in the textiles department and natural dyeing is our first “experiment” in our Dye Class! We use this book in our studio! – http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Color-Revised-Updated-Edition/dp/0823058794/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1336654718&sr=8-5
The book is called Wild Color and it’s amazing! The colors that you can get from nature are incredible! Onions can make all sorts of colors depending on the type of mordant you use. When you used Alum, it turned it yellow, but you can use other mordants too to change the color! Or you can use more onions to make the color stronger! It’s so fun! Some of my friends also did a whole semester in natural dyeing. They foraged for all of their own dye materials in Rhode Island and made a little blog to share their results here – http://foragingforcolor.wordpress.com/
I hope some of this helps you guys out! Natural dyeing is so fun to do!
Nettles! It comes out in a range of colors, light green to mossy gray… Also, cochineal makes pinks & reds 🙂
In Croatia, red onion peels are used to dye Easter eggs a beautiful, rich red-brown hue. I wonder if it would work for fabrics, too!
Hmmmm maybe that’s a nice idea for my favourite shirt! Now it’s white with yellow sweat stains in the armpits, but I could dye it with red cabbage… That would turn out blue or purple right? And then you won’t see the sweat stains 🙂
my sister and i just dyed some clothes using rit dye, but wished there was a better way to do it…now we know! thanks so much for this 🙂
That skirt looks lovely!
I found this beautiful soft pink chiffon dress online that I would love even more if it was off-white instead of pink… You wouldn’t happen to know if it’s possible to dye chiffon?
Thanks for the comment above about using rhubarb leaves as a mordant! I’d never heard of that before, and I’ve just found rhubarb growing in my new garden 🙂 Also: I’ve tried doing many things with beet juice. It doesn’t stain well for me…
Try pure henna – soft oranges, browns, maybe even red like on hair? Also indigo for blue 🙂
I like her necklace! Where is it from?
Oh and on top of what Jess said, turmeric really is awesome. I found the hot liquid took much better than when it had cooled. Another one that changes colour if you add an avid like vinegar or base like bicarbonate of soda. I’ll leve it to you to find out which makes it bright red and which turns it back to yellow
I’d be afraid that it would smell too… Looks great though!
– Angela Marie @ http://sunkissedivory.blogspot.com
was the scarf a cotton or a polyester jersey? synthetic fabrics will not dye with natural dye
In a natural materials sculpting class I took, we did a lot of natural dying. Tumeric can give a really nice rich yellow. And a few students had trouble with the beets too, so they must be a little fussy.
That skirt looks great! I’ve been dying yarn with tea for the past month, and using a similar mordant process. However, I’ve been leaving the yarn in the tea overnight for the best color. So perhaps just a longer bath will make a stronger color? Also you should pre-wash whenever possible – a lot of fabric/fiber manufacturers coat their products with waxy stuff to make them look shinier and stay crisp in stores. So definitely try a pre-wash next time! Good luck!
just so its clear to everyone, you only need to use the onion skins. the rest of the onion doesn’t have the pigment. i haven’t tried red onion skins but that might work out nicely.
red cabbage dye is really cool as well. if you add either an acid or a base to the dye it changes colour depending on the pH. so you can get some really beautiful blues and pinks. not sure how this would affect the fixability of the dye though as i only did it on scraps of paper.
note: using green plants doesn’t work very well as the pigment chlorophyl is oil soluble unlike the other which are water soluble
Turmeric powder (just from the grocery store) works excellent! It comes out a vibrant yellow and maintains that even after it is washed! Other ones you can use are pokeberries and black walnuts, which will make less vibrant, but still beautiful dyes! Good luck 🙂