HOW TO MAKE PLANT-DYED LINEN
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.