HOW TO MAKE A PLANT DYED BACKPACK
Two 30 x 37cm (117/ x 145/ pieces of cotton canvas 35 x 37cm (13¾ x 145/ cotton canvas 90 x 37cm (35½ x 145/ natural linen Two 160cm (63") linen cords Two 5 x 10cm (2 x 4") lengths of linen or canvas tape 30g madder root 100g acorns Sturdy leaves One cup of dried soy beans 1 tsp green iron sulphate crystals Textile paint in dark grey Small sponge White vinegar Muslin cloth Two glass jars Matching sewing thread Three 5l pans Safety pin Set off on a woodland ramble, you’ve got a botanical adventure ahead of you. Acorns and madder root are used to colour the canvas, then this easy-sew project goes beyond natural dyeing by printing with real leaf stamps for an earth-loving finish.
Plant-dyed fabrics need a little extra love to keep them in tip-top condition, so wash at 30ºC with a pH neutral ecological detergent and dry away from direct sunlight.
Soak one cup of beans in three cups of water overnight. Wash and grind the soaked beans, then strain them through the muslin cloth. Place the cotton canvas fabric in the soy bean solution to treat it, adding enough water to cover the fabric. Leave the cotton canvas to soak in a bucket for 12 hours, air dry, then dip quickly twice more in the bucket to add a thin layer of soy solution. Cure the fabric in a dry space for a few days.
In the meantime, soak the acorns. Place them in a glass jar, cover with water and leave for 5-7 days. To create an iron solution, put the green iron sulphate crystals in a jar, cover with white vinegar and fill with water. Leave for one week.
To prepare the dye baths, tip the contents of the acorn jar into a 5l pan and top up with water so it’s two-thirds full. Simmer the acorns for one hour then let the pot cool overnight. Place the madder roots in another 5l pan, filling two-thirds full with water. Heat at 70°C for one hour – don’t boil or the water will turn brown. Strain both dye baths.
Simmer the two 30 x 37cm (117/ x 145/ canvas pieces in the madder root dye at 70ºC for one hour then let the pot cool. Simmer the 35 x 37cm (13 x 145/ canvas piece in the acorn dye for one hour. Tip the contents of the iron jar into a 5l pan and top up with water so it’s two-thirds full, then dip the acorn-dyed fabric in to turn it grey.
Rinse all pieces separately and hang them up to dry.
Use sturdy leaves to print on the right side (RS) of one piece of the madder-dyed fabric. Apply paint with a small sponge on the leaf underside and press on the fabric through a piece of thick paper. Practise the pressure on a scrap of fabric before printing the final design. Set the dried paint by ironing it for four minutes.
With RS together, pin one madder-dyed piece to each long edge of the acorn-dyed piece, aligning the raw edges. Sew with a 1cm ( seam allowance.
Aligning the raw 37cm (145/ edges, pin the madder-dyed pieces to the linen lining piece, RS together. Sew with a 1cm ( seam allowance. Find the mid-point of the lining and acorn pieces and cut out 8 x 5cm (31/ x 2") rectangles at both ends for the standing bottom.
Place the tape to make strap holders at about 2cm ( ") above the rectangles of the outer fabric. The loop should be small enough to hold the knotted cords later, approximately 1-2cm ( - "). Sew the sides leaving a 10cm (4") opening on one side of the lining and 5cm (2") openings on both sides for the drawstrings, where the lining and the outside fabrics connect. Secure the drawstring channels’ sides by stitching.
Fold and align the bottom corners around the cut-out rectangles as shown and sew, making a standing bottom in both the outer and lining fabrics.
Turn the backpack RS out. Fold the raw edges at the gap in the lining to the wrong side, sew closed, then tuck the lining inside.
Make a drawstring channel by sewing all around the top of the bag, approximately 2cm ( ") down.
Thread the cord through the channel using a safety pin, then put both cord ends through the strap holders and secure with knots.
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