Adventures in Natural Dyeing: Part I

Natural dyeing with onion 1Natural dyeing with onion 2We'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:Natural dye steps1. 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. Beet dyeing failWhile 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!Natural dyeing with onion 3Thanks 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

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