Paint, Print & Ink
Homemade dyes always seemed like so much fun. However, being the purists that we are, we needed to do some serious experiments before we felt ready to dunk our crisp white linens into a vegetable bath. The results of using natural ingredients were beautiful and subtle, reminiscent of watercolor painting, and we couldn’t help but fall in love with the process. Here are our not-so-scientific findings!
Difficulty Level: ++
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You Will Need
Prepare the Dye
Chop the chosen ingredients into very fine bits. The chart below offers some possible dyes, but you can also experiment with other fruits, vegetables, and spices.
Put one part ingredient into a pot with two parts water. For example, 1 cup of strawberry bits requires 2 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer it for one hour.
Note: After about an hour, the ingredients will have released most of their color and the water will have reduced slightly.
Strain all of the bits out of the dye. Place the dye into a jar to cool.
Prepare the Fabric
For the dye to adhere to the fabric, you’ll need to create a fixative. Boil your fabric in the appropriate fixative for one hour (see below).
After an hour, rinse the fabric in cool water. It is now ready to dye.
Dye the Fabric
Place the wet fabric directly into the dye. Let it sit for as long as you like—our swatches soaked for 24 hours. The longer the fabric sits, the stronger the dye color.
Note: We only dipped half of the fabric into the dye and let the rest hang outside of the jar for comparison. Each of the colors created some degree of variation—some dyes quickly crept up the fabric swatch, and some dyes fixed only where the fabric was in direct contact with the dye.
When you are happy with the saturation, remove the fabric from the dye and rinse it in cold water; let dry.
For a fruit dye fixative: Combine ¼ cup of salt per 4 cups of water.
For a veggie dye fixative: Combine 1 cup of vinegar per 4 cups of water.
Keep in mind that a lot of the vibrancy will be lost when the fabric is rinsed for the first time. This is normal. Some ingredients keep saturation better than -others. For example, the blueberry we used kept a stronger color than the red beets when washed, even though both dyes were equally rich in color. After a wash or two, the color should remain consistent thereafter. We recommend you wash any dyed fabrics separately the first few times so that the colors do not bleed into undyed fabrics. You can always re-dye your fabric to revive the color, as well.