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Beyond the Ordinary in Surface Design

 

Home ] Dye Plant Information ] Dye Plant Color List ] Dyeing Techniques ] [ Dyeing Notes ] Scouring Fabric ] Glossary ]

 

Notes on Natural Dyeing

Kimberly Baxter Packwood © 2001

Roots, barks, and woody materials:

Most wood products do best when soaked, in water, overnight or even for a couple of weeks. While there are few exceptions, most woods do not yield good color when boiled.

Soak wood, bark, or roots, for up to three weeks, and then bring to a simmer, doing so for thirty minutes.  If the dye liquor still looks weak, simmer longer, upwards of three hours. 

Many woody materials will not yield a significant dye color unless a modifier is added.  Experimentation is required here.  In a small containers place a small amount of the dye liquor, mixing different mordants, and auxiliaries will yield different colors.  Some woody products yield colors only under basic conditions, adding soda ash and or baking soda will extract the color desired.  Other woody materials will yield color under bizarre situations, as with maple bark.  Maple bark will yield a blue dye color, when boiled in stagnant water with large amounts of iron mordant, fermented walnut hulls will yield a purplish color.

Wood sizes, sawdust works best, but not every piece of wood you collect will be in the form of sawdust.  I used a wood/leaf chipper, of the garden variety to chip my wood up, and then I allow it to soak for several weeks.  I strain off the chips, placing the dye liquor into a bucket, and grind the chips in my food grinder/processor.  I then replace the chips into the original dye bath, often with more liquid.

Flowers:

             Flowers are a bit hardier than woody materials.  I  soak the flowers overnight, or even for several days, before heating up the dye liquor.  I bring the dye bath up to a simmer, 120-180º F, where it remains for thirty minutes.  I often add the mordant to the dye bath while the dye materials are still in the pot.  I use multiple extractions to extract the color from the dye materials. Otherwise I allow the pot to cool and sit for several days or weeks.

          I use a potato masher and mash the flowers after they have soaked. This aids in extracting additional dye color from the flower heads.

 Fruits and Vegetables

            I use the same method with fruits and vegetables as I do with flowers, however I may run them through a food grinder/processor first, to ensure the greatest amount of color extraction.

            Following are a few basic recipes that I often use for dyeing fabrics.  After the immersion dyeing process I often use one of the many processes that follow, in the remainder of the book.

Osage Orange

Bright Yellow to Khaki Greens

·    Osage Orange dyes best when the chips have soaked, in water, for several days. Osage Orange does not require a mordant for dyeing, it is a substantive dye, and it is high in natural tannins. 

·    Place Osage Orange chips into a plastic bucket and cover with hot, not boiling, water.  A one-gallon bucket works well for this method.  

·    *Note on water quality:  If your water is very alkaline or acidic, high in iron, etc… I suggest using distilled water.  High mineral contents in your water supply will act as a mordant and grossly alter your expected dye colors.

·    Leave this solution to sit, in a warm place, like a sunny window, for one week; you may soak the Osage Orange upwards of three years, so long as mold does not grow on the surface.  At a minimum your Osage Orange should soak overnight. 

·    Remove Osage Orange chips from the resultant liqueur, and place onto a screen or screen-like surface to dry.  Once dry you may store, or reuse, the Osage Orange chips for future dye baths.  The color will be lighter, but you will find by allowing them to dry, and then reuse them, you will be able to extract a lot of color from the chips.

·        Place your Osage Orange liqueur into a dye pot, place pot onto heat source and bring the solution to a simmer.  (See notes on Dye Pots and Utensils)

·    Place your wetted fabrics into the dye pot; simmer for two hours. 

·    Remove from heat and allow the fabric to remain in the dye bath, overnight or longer if desired. 

·    Allowing the fabric to remain in the dye pot, as the dye bath cools, allows for more of the dye molecules to bind with the fibers.

·        Remove fabric from the dye bath and rinse the fabric thoroughly.  Some dye color will rinse off in the process, this is normal. 

·    Allow the fabric to line dry. 

·    You may then post mordant the fabrics (see section on Post Mordanting and After Treatments) or you may over dye the fabric with another color, such as indigo to acquire a second color. 

·    Osage Orange and Indigo will yield beautiful greens.

·    The Fabric can then be machine-washed and dried, using a mild detergent without bleaches or oxidizers.  These types of detergents will remove natural dye colors.

Calendula Blossoms

Bright Yellow to Khaki Greens

·    Place Calendula Blossoms into a plastic bucket, cover with hot not boiling, water.  A one-gallon bucket works well for this method.  

·    *Note on water quality:  If your water is very alkaline or acidic, high in iron, etc… I suggest using distilled water.  High mineral contents in your water supply will act as a mordant and grossly alter your expected dye colors.

·    Leave this solution to soak, in a warm place, overnight. 

·    Remove Calendula Blossoms from the resultant liqueur, and place onto a screen or screen-like surface to dry.  Once dry you may store, or reuse, the Calendula Blossoms for future baths.  The color will be lighter, but you will find by allowing them to dry, and then reuse them, you will be able to extract additional color from the blossoms.

·        Place your Calendula liqueur into a dye pot, place pot onto heat source and bring the solution to a simmer.  (See notes on Dye Pots and Utensils)

·        Place your wetted fabrics into the dye pot; simmer for two hours. 

·        Remove from heat and allow the fabric to remain in the dye bath, overnight or longer if desired. 

·        Allowing the fabric to remain in the dye pot, as the dye bath cools, allows for more of the dye molecules to bind with the fibers.

·        Remove fabric from the dye bath and rinse the fabric thoroughly.  Some dye color will rinse off in the process, this is normal. 

·        Line dry the fabric. 

Marigold Blossoms

Bright Yellow to Khaki Greens

·        Place Marigold Blossoms into a plastic bucket and cover them with hot, not boiling, water.  A one-gallon bucket or container will work well for this method.   Marigolds will yield the greatest color if allowed to soak for an extended periods, upwards of thirty days.  Just place the solution in a warm area, such as a sunny window, heat to a simmer every few days to prevent mold from forming.

·        *Note on water quality:  If your water is very alkaline or acidic, high in iron, etc… I suggest using distilled water.  High mineral contents in your water supply will act as a mordant and grossly alter your expected dye colors.

·        Leave this solution to sit, in a warm place, soak overnight. 

·        Remove Marigold Blossoms from the resultant liqueur, and place onto a screen or screen-like surface to dry.  Once dry you may store, or reuse, the Marigold Blossoms for future baths.  The color will be lighter, but you will find by allowing them to dry, and then reuse them, you will be able to extract a lot of color from the chips.

·        Place your Marigold liqueur into a dye pot, place pot onto heat source and bring the solution to a simmer.  (See notes on Dye Pots and Utensils)

·        Place your wetted fabrics into the dye pot and allow to simmer for two hours. 

·        Remove from heat and allow the fabric to remain in the dye bath, overnight or longer if desired. 

·        Allowing the fabric to remain in the dye pot, as the dye bath cools, allows for more of the dye molecules to bind with the fibers.

·        Remove fabric from the dye bath and rinse the fabric thoroughly.  Some dye color will rinse off in the process, this is normal. 

Cochineal Bugs

Red orange to Purples

·        You may use the bugs whole. 

·        Place ground bugs into a bag of some type, an old pair of panty hose works well for this, use only a small portion, such as the foot section, as the nylon will absorb the dyes.

·        Place bug pouch into a dye pot filled with distilled water. 

  • NOTE: Cochineal is highly effected by water quality, using distilled water is critical to acquire the red dyes

·        NOTE:  Bring the dye bath to a simmer, keep at or below a simmer at all times, as the red dyes will turn brown with the introduction of high heat or prolonged heating times.

·        Once these two precautions are headed, dyeing with the red yielding dyes is fun and greatly rewarding.

·        Place fabric into the dye bath, allow the bath to simmer for two hours and remove from the heat source.  Batch the fabric, See Batching Instructions.

·        You may pre-mordant the fabric with alum or tannin prior to dyeing, or you may dye the fabric first and then post mordant with alum or tannin.

·        To obtain the brightest reds add one to two teaspoons of Cream of Tartar to the dye bath.  this shifts the pH of the dye bath. Adding Iron to the dye bath will yield purples to black colors.

·        Post Mordanting with Copper or Ammonia will yield interesting colors as well. 

  • To extract a greatest amount of dye color cover the bugs with water bring to a hard simmer and turn the heat off.  Let sit overnight, strain in a small strainer the next day, saving the dye liquor.  Return the bugs to the pan, cover with water and repeat the process again.  This process may be repeated upwards of 20 times before the bugs are completely exhausted.  Take your dye liquor, periodically, and heat it to a hard simmer, this will prevent mold from forming and turning the dye liquid brown.  Your dye liquid may appear black, this is normal when the liquid is highly concentrated.  Take a tablespoon of the liquid and place it in a gallon of water, the water should turn red.  I often add alum to the dye bath at this point.  To store the liquid store it in the fridge in a sealed glass jar, remember to heat it periodically to prevent mold formation.

Reds & Burgundies to Purples

·   Place Red Hibiscus Blossoms in a plastic container, cover with water and allow to soak overnight.  This will aid in extracting the most dye color from the blossoms.

·       NOTE: Hibiscus is highly effected by water quality, using distilled water is critical to acquire the red dyes. 

·    NOTE:  Bring the dye bath to a simmer, keep at or below a simmer at all times, as the red dyes will turn brown with the introduction of high heat or prolonged heating times.

·    Once these two precautions are headed, dyeing with the red yielding dyes is fun and greatly rewarding

·        Strain the Hibiscus Blossoms from the dye bath and set aside, or place in fresh water and allowed to soak overnight again.  This dye liqueur can then be mixed with the first dye bath or used on its own.

·   Place Alum mordant fabric into the dye bath and bring to a simmer, allow to simmer for two hours.  Remove dye bath from the heat. 

·   You can change the colors by over dyeing or post mordanting the fabrics.  Purples can be obtained in one of two manners, by either over dyeing with Indigo, or by post mordanting with Iron. 

Madder Root, Whole

Oranges to Brilliant Reds

·  Chop roots into small pieces, cover with water and allow to soak, for upwards of 30 days.  For minimum color, extractions soak the roots for 24 hours.

·  Madder Root does not require a mordant for dyeing, it is a substantive dye source, it is high in natural tannins. 

·  NOTE: Madder Root is highly effected by water quality, using distilled water is critical to acquire the red dyes. 

·  NOTE:  Bring the dye bath to a simmer, keep at or below a simmer at all times, as the red dyes will turn brown with the introduction of high heat or prolonged heating times.

·  Once these two precautions are headed, dyeing with the red yielding dyes is fun and greatly rewarding

·  Remove Madder Root from the resultant liqueur, and place onto a screen or screen-like surface to dry.  Once dry you may store, or reuse, the Madder Root for future dye baths.  The color will be lighter, but you will find by allowing them to dry, and then reuse them, you will be able to extract a lot of color from the roots.

·  Place your Madder Root liqueur into a dye pot, place pot onto heat source and bring the solution to a simmer.  (See notes on Dye Pots and Utensils)

·   Place your wetted fabrics into the dye pot and allow to simmer for two hours. 

·   Remove from heat and allow the fabric to remain in the dye bath, overnight or longer if desired. 

·   Allowing the fabric to remain in the dye pot, as the dye bath cools, allows for more of the dye molecules to bind with the fibers.

·  Remove fabric from the dye bath and rinse the fabric thoroughly.  Some dye color will rinse off in the process, this is normal. 

·   Allow the fabric to line dry. 

·   You may then post mordant the fabrics (see section on Post Mordanting and After Treatments) or you may over dye the fabric with another color, such as indigo to acquire a second color.

Henna Extract I

Browns to Auburns

·   Place the Henna Extract into a cup containing boiling water to dissolve. 

·     Place this solution into your dye pot (See section on Dye Pots and Utensils) filled with water, bring solution to a simmer.

·  Add wet Alum pre-mordant fabric to the dye bath and allow to simmer for two hours.

Remove fabric and rinse well.

Try over dyeing and post mordanting treatments with this dye bath.

Henna Extract II

Browns to Auburns

·        Henna Extract may be used in many surface design techniques.  Dye painting, stamping and screen-printing are some of the techniques you can try with dye extracts.

·        Take 1/8th to ½ teaspoon of the Henna Extract and mix with ½-cup boiling water.

·        Take this solution and either mix with Gum Tragacanth Medium, or use it to paint directly onto the fabrics.

·        You are set to paint or stamp fabric.  Use natural Bristle brushes as the dyes wick up the hairs more easily than with synthetic Bristles.

Brazilwood Sawdust

Reds to Red Violets

·    Place Brazilwood sawdust into a bag of some type, an old pair of panty hose works well for this, use only a small portion, such as the foot section, as the nylon will absorb the dyes.

·        Brazilwood does not require a mordant for dyeing, it is a substantive dye source, it is high in natural tannins. 

·    Day One:  Take chips out of the dye bath and allow to dry overnight. 

·    Second Day:  Place chips back into dye bath, and bring to a simmer.  Add Baking Soda to the dye bath, and do NOT bring to a boil.  Brazilwood yields its best colors in alkaline conditions.

·   Remove Brazilwood from the resultant liqueur, and place onto a screen or screen-like surface to dry.  Once dry you may store, or reuse, the Brazilwood for future dye baths.  The color will be lighter, but you will find by allowing them to dry, and then reuse them, you will be able to extract a lot of color from the sawdust.

·   NOTE:  Brazilwood is highly effected by water quality, using distilled water is critical to acquire the red dyes. 

·   NOTE:  Bring the dye bath to a simmer, keep at or below a simmer at all times, as the red dyes will turn brown with the introduction of high heat or prolonged heating times.

·   Once these two precautions are headed, dyeing with the red yielding dyes is fun and greatly rewarding.

·   Place fabric into the dye bath, allow the bath to simmer for two hours and remove from the heat source.  Batch the fabric, See Batching Instructions.

Rose Hips

Tans to Rosy Pinks (with iron)

·        Soak Rose Hips in hot water for several hours or over night, bring to a simmer.

·        Allow Rose Hips to simmer for two hours, adding the wetted pre-mordant fibers to the dye pot. 

·        Allow the fibers to simmer in solution for two hours. 

·        Remove fibers from the dye pot, the dye solution may be used again.

·        Rinse the fibers and line dry.

 

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