After owning and ogling the book Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes by Jenny Dean for several years now–which, by the way, I highly recommend–I have finally decided to begin my own experiments.
I must tell you that I am in no way (for the time being) concerned about precision in my dyeing adventures; naturally, you MUST follow the safety rules!! Some things can be toxic, and you should know what those are and how to deal with them. However, when it comes to the rest of it, I’m a loose canon. Everything I’ve done so far as concerns times, quantities, etc., has been guess work. Dean advises the reader to take accurate notes, which is certainly something to do if you want to reproduce a certain result. However, I’m not too concerned with that yet–my main objective has been to see if I can even get any color out of the process!
As a general rule, your dyestuff, when dry, should be equal in weight to the fibers you are dyeing. In both cases, I used considerably less dyestuff than fiber. This was partially intentional to see just how much you would have to have to get any color, and partially because I didn’t have much available to me.
Usually, you’ll want to use a mordant, which is something that helps the dye to sort of stick. Common mordants are alum, copper, and iron. (Again, please be sure to read Dean’s book, or another reliable resource, before setting out on your own! This is really more of a brief account of my own experiences rather than a how-to.)
So, I used some water (enough to soak all my pieces and give them some room to be stirred around), approximately two teaspoons of alum (the same used for pickling), and then roughly a handful (?!?) of dyestuff. I threw it in all together at once, let it almost simmer outside (good ventilation is always recommended) for about 1 to 1.5 hours, then let it sit for an hour or so….I have rinsed these pieces fabrics, but have not properly laundered them with detergent, so I’m not sure if that will have much effect or not.
For my first trial, I used rose of sharon flowers…
It was not what I expected, but the color turned out extremely lovely nonetheless…a very soft celadon or mint.
For the second, I used marigold flowers.
The result was a very cheerful, bright yellow.
A few of my observations: I really do need a lot more dyestuff, I think, if I want more color. I already knew I wasn’t using enough, but next time, I will try to not skimp. Also, the protein fibers like wool and silk seem to take on more color than the cellulose fibers, or the cotton and linen–but again, not a surprise, since alum is recommended as a mordant for protein fibers.
I’m looking forward to doing some more natural dyeing!