FOLLOW THESE EASY STEPS TO NATURAL DYEING
NATURAL DYE BASE RECIPES
AVOCADO SKINS Use 100g chopped avocado skin in 3.5 litres of cold water for the dye bath. MINT
Use a large bunch of fresh mint in 3.5 litres cold water for the dye bath. BLACKBERRIES
Press 1 kg of blackberries or mulberries through a vegetable press or juice extractor. Reserve the juice for cooking or drinking and put the pulp and seeds into 3.5 litres of cold water for the dye bath. RED WINE
Dilute a bottle and a half of tannin-rich red wine (a good strong red) with 2 litres of cold water for the dye bath. (This does not need to be pre-simmered.) AVOCADO SEEDS
Put 6 avocado seeds in 3.5 litres of cold water. Bring to the boil, then lower heat and allow to simmer until the seeds are soft enough to break apart, then simmer for another hour, stirring from time to time. OAK LEAVES Prepare dye bath as for mint leaves, replacing fresh mint with 100g fresh green oak leaves. ROSEMARY Prepare dye bath as for mint, replacing fresh mint with 100g fresh rosemary. BLACK TEA Use 4 ordinary black tea bags in 3.5 litres of cold water for the dye bath. Bring to a bare simmer and maintain at this temperature for 30 minutes, stirring regularly.
GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS Gather your supplies
• Dye base recipe (see opposite)
• 2 large pots and tongs
• Strainer or sieve
• Natural fabric
• Mordant: potassium aluminium sulphate or salt
• Rubber gloves
For you to note
When dyeing, do not use utensils and containers you use for cooking. And wear rubber gloves to avoid staining your hands.
Prepare the dye bath
STEP 1 Place the specified amounts of chopped plant material and water in a large non-reactive pot (such as stainless steel or glass). Refer to dye recipes. STEP 2 Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow to stand overnight. STEP 3 Strain the dye, discard solids and return liquid to the pot. Set aside.
For you to note
When using natural dyes, you need to use a ‘mordant’ to help fix the colour in the fabric. For most vegetable dyes, you can use alum (potassium aluminium sulphate) as a mordant. It is readily available from online and at selected chemists. It’s easy to use, inexpensive and a good mordant for cotton, linen and wool. For dyes made with berries, it is better to use salt. You will need about 20g of alum per 100g of dry weight fabric, or 1⁄2 cup salt per 8 cups of water. Using a mordant helps you achieve vibrant dyed fabrics, so don’t be tempted to skip this part.
Mordant the fabric
STEP 4 Wash fabric to remove any dirt or sizing (dressing), wring it out and leave damp.
STEP 5 In a large clean pot, put enough water to allow the fabric to be completely submerged. (Measure the water if using salt, see ratio above.) Heat water to almost boiling and stir in mordant (alum or salt) until dissolved. STEP 6 Immerse the damp fabric in the mordant bath and simmer for 1 hour, stirring gently with tongs from time to time. Remove pot from heat and let soak overnight. Wearing rubber gloves, rinse in clean water, wring out, but leave damp.
Dyeing the fabric
STEP 7 Immerse the damp, mordanted fabric in the prepared dye bath.
STEP 8 Heat until just simmering and simmer for 1 hour. Stir now and then.
STEP 9 Remove pot from heat and check fabric colour. Remember the fabric will be lighter when it dries. Darker hues can be achieved by allowing the fabric to sit longer or overnight in dye bath.
STEP 10 When fabric is the desired colour, remove from dye and rinse in cold water until water runs clear. Let fabric dry. There is no need to heat set.