Dying to try something new

And now, as is my tradition, after taking approximately one million years to finish my kid’s sweater, I now want to do something completely different.

So I’m not even getting out my yarn. (Well, mostly… I did use a little yarn, but still.)

My Instagram feed has been full of people doing natural dying, lately. Not sure if natural dying is suddenly trendy, or if I just follow enough homesteading, gardening, and sewing accounts that the algorithm has decided that dying my own fabric is the next logical step. Not that I’m mad. Sometimes the algorithm works.

So, my big hesitation about dying my own fabric/yarn is that:

1. I don’t want to ruin any pots or have to go buy specific ‘dye pots.’

2. I wanted this project to be something that my kids can help with. I’m more than happy to make a mess, but I’d rather they not mess with any nasty chemicals.

I looked around, and found a tutorial for Botanical Bundle Dying and it fit all the criteria that I had: I didn’t need to buy anything else, my kids could help, and it looked “relatively” simple. (I realize “relatively” is a relative word in dying.)

We got our materials together: some scrap muslin, my husband’s old brew kettle from when he made his own beer, a whole bunch of pennies, most of the vinegar in the house and a whole mess of flowers and greenery from the yard.

We followed the tutorial pretty closely, using the “pot as mordant” technique (basically just boiling the fabric in water with a big handful of pennies. Supposedly the copper from the pennies interacts with the fabric and makes the dye more colorfast.)

We let it cool overnight, then soaked the fabric in a 1:4 dilution of vinegar in water for an hour. Meanwhile we walked through the yard picking basically anything that seemed interesting (cosmos, marigolds, purple kale, roses, rose leaves, arugula that had gone to seed, fuchsia flowers…) and threw them in the leftover mordant water.

Once the hour was up, we laid out the fabric and carefully sandwiched the flowers in a “pattern” (the kid tossed them in handfuls at the fabric and I spread them out), and carefully folded/rolled them up.

Then the rolled-up fabric steamed in the brew kettle for a couple hours, before being left to sit overnight. (It ended up having a very particular (and not particularly nice) smell.)

The next day it was time for the big reveal, and… voila la!

So, kinda fun! I learned a lot. The marigolds and the purple cosmos came out the best. I think the black splotches were either from the fuchsias or the nasturtiums, but it was kind of hard to tell. After all that steaming, the more delicate flowers almost dissolved. The kale and arugula didn’t show up even a little bit (and steamed kale is gross). The rose petals fully dissolved and didn’t dye the fabric at all, but the leaves left a very faint trace.

I ironed the fabric to “set” the pattern, and then, since I was curious to see what would happen, I threw it into the washer to see how colorfast it was. Answer: not colorfast at all. A little of the cosmos pink stayed, and maybe a hint of the marigold yellow, but for all intents and purposes, the color all washed away.

While this was kind of a bust (or at least I didn’t get beautifully dyed fabric at the end), I learned a lot, and it was a fun activity to do with the little ones. I guess I’m going to have to try it again- and this time, I think I’ll do a little bit more research.

Have you tried any new crafts lately?

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