This tutorial will show you the basics for dying fabric using natural materials. In this way, you can avoid buying bleached cottons and help minimize the impact of chemicals and pollution. Plus it’s pretty great to know that you’ve made something colored by flowers and berries!
There are a few steps, but really it’s as easy as using chemical dyes…or more like making a big pot of soup!
First, your materials:
1. Pot. Get one as big as you need it to be, and try to find a pot that you can use exclusively for your dying crafts…
2. Unbleached cotton. Best way to go! You’re going to dye it anyway so why need for something that has been bleached and processed (though for many projects, I love to keep the natural color of seeded, unbleached cotton!)
3. Dye medium. Here I’m using hibiscus petals, sold as tea. There are so many fun ways to obtain colors, from plants, juice, spices and teas. Have fun experimenting!
blueberries – light purple
blackberries – dark plum
redbeets – light pick to red
pomegranate juice – purple
saffron – golden yellow
turmeric – bright yellow
Hibiscus, Strawberries – rose pink to salmon
Coffee – light brown
Tea – ecru
4. Mordant. Before you start, you need to treat the fabric to be dyed. The term mordant is French and means “to bite” making it so that the color will hold on and not wash straight out again. There are many types of mordants, some are toxic (chemical dyes) – so here are 2 that you can use safely at home (and not worry about pour down the drains):
1. Vinegar – use for plants (1 part vinegar to 4 parts cold water)
2. Salt – use for berries (1/2 cup of salt to every 8 cups of cold water)
That brings us right into the process – let’s begin!
Step 1 – Treat your fabric
Fill your pot with water and add your mordant, bring to a boil and simmer your fabrics for 1 hour.
After you turn off the fire, let the fabric sit in the pot until the water cools. Remove and rinse under clean water – and then you’re ready to dye!
Step 2 – Dye your fabric
We need to extract the color from our plant material. Chop it up, crush it, pour or sprinkle it into your pot of water (double the amount of water to dye medium) Boil for 15 minutes to 1 hour – depending on the dye medium (some release their color quicker than others, if it’s juice it’s just a matter of heating it up). Turn off the heat and leave to cool a little before adding the fabric. If you have bits of plant material, scoop them out.
Now, place your damp fabrics in the pot of what is now, your dye color. Simmer together until the fabric reaches the desired color (even overnight if you want a deep rich color – just turn the fire off and let it soak!) The color of the fabric will be lighter when its dries.
You can repeat the dyeing process two or three times to intensify they color and improve its resistance to fading.
Muslin, silk, cotton and wool work best for natural dyes. Also note that all dyed fabric should be laundered in cold water and washed separately.
Have fun experimenting!
p.s – Will you have a go? Things can seem complicated until you actully try it! If you’re not sure about taking this on – start small. Boil some water in a mug, add some spices or flowers, maybe leaves and see what color you get!