Monday 25 May 2015

Experimenting with natural dyes

Experimenting with natural dyes has been on my "would like to try" list for some time, being inspired by gorgeous work such as the "Domestic Scientist" below..
photo credit: The domestic scientist
The perfect opportunity presented itself after a chat with Skye (my youngest daughter).We were talking about making "potions" and I was reminded of the perfumes I used to make as a youngster. You know...the kind that contained all the heads of pretty roses pillaged from a garden (sorry dad!) and squished into a jam jar, along with some mud and the like. 
Skye was quite taken with the idea of creating something similar, but not having a garden full of  roses (phew!), the idea of squooshing and smooshing some flowers and plants made me think of natural dyeing and so I suggested a try. 
Skye reckoned this sounded good too, so after a little research online I found out how to prepare the fabric for dyeing and what fruits/veg/plants could be used to create colour. 
Turns it's quite simple to prepare....white wine vinegar is used to fix plant dyes and salt for berry dyes . A number of readily available flowers and veg can be used for the colour. Easy!

Some advice said to soak the fabric overnight, other said to simmer the fabric for an hour in the vinegar/salt. We have an open plan kitchen/livingroom and so not fancying an ever lasting linger of vinegar, I went for an hours worth of soaking.(we were impatient!)

 Next was deciding what colours we'd like and what we had on hand to use for the dye. (being impatient and a touch lazy, we decided a visit to the shop wasn't an option)
Skye and I were both quite impressed that avocado (skin and seed) creates a pink colour, and it just so happened there was one needing eaten in the fridge.
Carrots were said to create of same in the fridge. Turmeric creates yellow.....yep jar in the cupboard!  
Small scale seemed like the best option, so the plan was to only create a little amount of dye, and see how we get on with these 3 colours then take it from there.

Turns out natural dyeing doesn't involve much smooshing and squooshing at all....rather a case of cutting, grating, simmering and more simmering. But it did get Skye and the veg peeler acquainted which can only be a good thing, right?! 

So we simmered and waited and simmered some more, both concluding that a lot of time and effort goes into this natural dying process. 

Several hours later we had 3 little tubs (recycled from milk cartons), with a watery coloured substance in it of 3 different shades!

From left to right the "dye" came from carrot, avocado & turmeric.

I think you'll be able to gather from the photos that the dye wasn't particularly strong in colour!
And as a result we had a good old chuckle at how the carrot didn't even make the slightest bit of difference to the fabric. It also took quite a lot of imagination to see the pink colour created from the avocado!
The turmeric however I was sold on.... a sprinkle into a pot and voila some "real" colour! (We played about with some tie dying effects too while we were at it) 

Our turmeric triumph!
So it was great that something actually seemed to result from our hours of waiting and simmering! However a note for future reference is that the dyed colour of wet fabric is quite different from dry fabric, and hence the lack of photo.......if I showed you the dried "dyed" fabric you would think there was just a pile of off white fabric in front of you. *sigh!

When asked what Skye thought about the dyeing experiment she said it was "in between good and not good". 
Hmmmm I'd probably have to agree! The time spent didn't really equal the outcome in our instance, and there was a lot of waiting rather than smooshing and squooshing! However we were complete novices and our "process" was far from perfect!

I must add I do now have a complete appreciation of all the beautiful and vibrant hand dyed fabrics, wools and threads that are available out there!

Funnily enough just days later, the pin below turned up on my pinterest feed, and I am re-invigorated knowing that the smooshing and squooshing still seems possible .... so watch this space ! :)x
Hammered leaves art at

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