Mollie Makes - - Rich History -


3m (1181/ ") Ir­ish linen fab­ric Onion skins Fab­ric scis­sors Match­ing sewing thread Tape mea­sure Oak gall ex­tract pow­der Alum Soda ash Two large pots with lids Long-han­dled spoon pH neu­tral soap Two heat­proof jars Gloves Dust mask Pro­tec­tive eye wear Look­ing to get into plant dye­ing? This project will put you through your paces – a run­ner and nap­kin set dyed with onion skins. The linen fab­ric will help you nail that boho, crum­pled-just-so look, then of course you’ll need to gather some pals round for sup­per to show off your new nat­u­ral beau­ties.


When work­ing with alum and soda ash mor­dants, al­ways work in a well-ven­ti­lated area and wear gloves, a dust mask and eye pro­tec­tion. It’s a two-step mor­dant, so you’ll cal­cu­late the quan­ti­ties of dye ma­te­ri­als needed for each of the two mor­dants, and then soak the fab­ric in them one by one.

For the alum and soda ash mor­dant, weigh the fab­ric af­ter it’s been washed and dried. You’ll need 20% of the fab­ric’s weight in alum, and 6% of its weight in soda ash. So, for 100g (3 oz) fab­ric, you’ll need 20g ( oz) alum and 6g ( oz) soda ash. You should weigh the fab­ric and cal­cu­late the cor­rect weights to use be­fore you be­gin pre­par­ing the mor­dant.

For the oak gall mor­dant, you’ll need 1 tsp of oak gall ex­tract pow­der for ev­ery 100g (3 oz) of fab­ric weight af­ter it’s been washed and dried.

Place the fab­ric in a large pot of wa­ter and al­low it to soak for ide­ally 8-12 hours, or overnight, so the fab­ric is pre-wet­ted.

Mean­while, place the re­quired amount of oak gall pow­der in a jar and add enough hot wa­ter to make a paste. Stir in more hot wa­ter to make a so­lu­tion, al­low­ing the pow­der to dis­solve.

Fill a large pot with wa­ter; the pot should be big enough for the fab­ric to be cov­ered with wa­ter, with space for it to move freely.

Pour the oak gall mor­dant so­lu­tion into the pot and stir with a long-han­dled spoon. Bring to a sim­mer and sim­mer for one hour. Turn off the heat and al­low the pot to cool to a luke­warm tem­per­a­ture.

Take the pre-wet­ted fab­ric out of the soak­ing wa­ter, and gen­tly wring out any ex­cess wa­ter. Place the fab­ric in the oak gall mor­dant so­lu­tion and leave to soak for 8-12 hours, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally so the fab­ric ab­sorbs the mor­dant con­sis­tently all over.

Re­move the fab­ric from the so­lu­tion and gen­tly wring out any ex­cess liq­uid. Rinse in luke­warm or cool wa­ter, gen­tly wash with pH-neu­tral soap, then rinse it again with wa­ter to re­move the soap.

Choose an­other pot that’s large enough to al­low the fab­ric to be cov­ered with wa­ter, and with space for it to move around eas­ily. Half-fill the pot with wa­ter.

Mea­sure out the alum based on the ra­tio out­lined in Step 1. Add it to a heat­proof jar and add enough boil­ing wa­ter for it to dis­solve. Add this to the pot of wa­ter.

Mea­sure out the soda ash based on the ra­tio out­lined in Step 1 and add it to the pot of wa­ter.

Bring the wa­ter to a sim­mer, stir­ring to dis­solve the soda ash thor­oughly. Add more wa­ter so there’ll be a suf­fi­cient amount to cover the fab­ric and stir well to mix it. Add the fab­ric.

Heat to a sim­mer. Once at a sim­mer­ing point, turn off the heat and leave to soak for eight hours, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally.

Take the fab­ric out of the pot and gen­tly wring out any ex­cess liq­uid. Rinse the fab­ric with luke­warm or cool wa­ter, gen­tly wash it with pH-neu­tral soap, then rinse it again to re­move the soap.

You can ei­ther use the fab­ric in its damp state, adding it to the dye bath once pre­pared, or hang it to some­where warm to air dry, out of di­rect sun­light, for later use.


Weigh the fi­bre af­ter it has been washed and dried. For a deep shade, use 50% of the weight of the fi­bre in skin.

Onion skins are easy and quick to dye with. There’s no need to chop them, sim­ply put them in the dye pot and pour in enough wa­ter to al­low the fab­ric to move freely. Bring to a sim­mer, and sim­mer for 30 min­utes. You’ll see the colour of the wa­ter chang­ing and deep­en­ing quite quickly. Strain out the skins and use the liq­uid as the dye bath.

Add the pre-mor­danted and pre-wet­ted fab­ric to the dye bath. Slowly raise the tem­per­a­ture of the dye bath to a sim­mer.

Sim­mer for about 30 min­utes, or un­til you have the de­sired shade, gen­tly stir­ring. Open up any folded ar­eas, or sec­tions that may be touch­ing other ar­eas of the fab­ric or the sides or bot­tom of the pot. Tease out any air bub­bles that may have be­come trapped caus­ing the fab­ric to rise above the sur­face.

Leave the fab­ric in the dye bath overnight and al­low it to cool and the colour to sat­u­rate. Re­move, and gen­tly wring out any ex­cess dye.

Re­serve the dye bath for an­other use if there’s still colour in it. You can use the dye bath a sec­ond time to get paler shades, and you can keep dye in a lid­ded bucket or sealed glass jar for sev­eral weeks.

Rinse the fab­ric in luke­warm wa­ter, wash it with a pH-neu­tral soap, then rinse it again. Hang it to air dry, away from sun­light. Mak­ing the ta­ble linen

Mea­sure the ta­ble width or length, de­pend­ing on where you want the run­ner to sit. A ta­ble run­ner looks good when it’s about one third of the width of the ta­ble, and run­ning down the mid­dle along the length. So if the ta­ble is 120cm (48") wide, the run­ner should be 40cm (16") wide. The length of the run­ner should over­hang the ends of the ta­ble by about 15-25cm (6-10") on each end. So, if the ta­ble is 175cm (70") long, the ta­ble run­ner will be 190-200cm (75-80") long. Nap­kins are square and can be any size from 40 x 40cm (16 x 16") to 50 x 50cm (20 x 20"). Larger sizes tend to be for for­mal events, to be folded into shapes or around sil­ver­ware. When you’ve es­tab­lished what sizes you need, cut all the pieces from the fab­ric. Leave a rough, frayed hem.

For a neater fin­ish, al­low 2cm ( ") ex­tra all round each piece for a hem. Fold the edges of each piece to the wrong side ( WS) by 1cm ( "), then fold un­der again by 1cm ( "). Press the folds, then pin them into place, plac­ing the pins at a right an­gle to the edge so the nee­dle can sew over them. Us­ing the sewing ma­chine, sew the hem in place all round the edges, close to the first fold.

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