Dyeing with Turmeric and Iron aka “Sad Turmeric”

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My last dyeing session left me with a pot of turmeric dye (about 6 cups of water plus 3 heaping tablespoons of turmeric and one tablespoon of alum) that was just begging for me to do something with it! I had recently seen an online post that said that if you add iron to turmeric dye it will “sadden” or darken the colors. It also said that you can get olive green colors by doing this…which peaked my interest.

I had two options to sadden my dye. The first was iron powder that I had purchased from Dharma Trading. The second was a homemade brew that was created by submerging one pad of extra fine steel wool (0000) in vinegar and letting it sit until the steel wool dissolved. This typically takes about two days. However, since mine was leftover from another project it had been sitting for several months, so it was good to go!

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My understanding was that it would only take a small amount of iron to alter the color. So I put my.pot on the stove, turned the heat to med/high and added 1/2 teaspoon of the iron powder.

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Hmmmmm, well it was really pretty but it didn’t look “sad” at all? I then added another 1/2 teaspoon and I waited. Nothing. Okay, time to give my concoction a go. I added approximately 1/2 cup of my brew and I waited. This time I was getting somewhere. After another 1/2 cup addition of my homemade iron solution, this is what I got.

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It was definitely looking more “sad” although it didn’t exactly look olive green. Since I had already added a good amount of iron to the mix, I chose to proceed.

Now it was time to address my fabric. I decided to use two silk scarves and some simple shibori techniques to create patterns on the fabric. I folded both scarves into a triangle shape as follows:

For some odd reason, this particular triangle fold has always been difficult for me to wrap my head around?! Hopefully it will be easier for you! I started by folding my scarf in half and then (as you can see above) I folded it past the edge of the fabric. Next I folded it back onto itself to create a triangle. Last, I folded the whole triangle back and forth (accordion style) until I reached the end. I followed the same procedure for the second scarf and then I gave each of them their own personality. For one, I used three extra large popsicle sticks that I bound with rubber bands to create a resist. For the other, I simply tied a row of rubber bands down the length of the triangle.

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Into the dye they went! I simmered them on low for one hour and then I turned off the heat and let them soak for approximately 3 hours.

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Next, I rinsed them in cold water until the water ran clear. There was very little excess dye coming off of the fabric which told me that the fabric and the dye bonded well. Unfortunately, the olive green that I was hoping for was nowhere to be found. But the color was definitely altered and is more of a mustard yellow than the bright sunshine yellow that I got from the turmeric dye alone.

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This brings me to the subject of colorfastness and washfastness. After doing a TON of research online (seriously, I could write a dissertation), I learned that while turmeric dyed fabric is very washfast it is not known to be lightfast. Although using mordants such as alum and iron will most certainly help with both wash and lightfastness, I have been unable to determine the extent to which this is true. This is my third foray into turmeric dyeing and I can tell you that my colors are holding fast so far. The fist piece of fabric that I dyed is now about 5 months old and I can see no discernible fading. I would be very interested to know if anyone has had any longer term experience with turmeric dyed fabrics, especially when an alum mordant was used. Please comment below if that’s you!!!

After air drying and a good ironing, here are my finished pieces.

I really like the one on the left and I’m not so sure about the one on the right. The pattern is kind of interesting, however, the color is blotchy and uneven. I am a fan of the mustardy yellow though and it was interesting to see what the iron did to my dye bath. All in all it was another informative adventure down dyers lane. I hope that you enjoyed the ride as much as I did! Please feel free to comment or ask questions. To see the scarf on the left in my etsy shop, go here. 🙂

 

 

 

Dyeing with Avocado Pits and MORE!

 

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I have been hording avocado pits and skins in my freezer for a while now. Apparently, these babies dye stuff pink – who’d have thunk???  Folks who know me might be surprised to hear that I’m excited about dyeing something pink (but I am, really!). I did in fact have a very strong aversion to pink at one time. So much so that when I was pregnant with my baby girl I actually exchanged a bunch of pink gifts (sorry if you were one of those pink gift givers!). But then I had my baby girl and as you might expect, she loved pink. Mind you, she’s not a girly, girl and she actually dislikes Barbies pretty strongly (I swear that I had nothing to do with that), but she is a fan of pink. Though her love has lessened as she’s grown to a whopping 8, almost 9 years old, she definitely turned me to the pink side. 🙂

But I digress! I decided to dye three silk scarves that I had purchased from Dharma Trading, two 8mm Habotai and one silk charmeuse (Dharma calls this one a belt, but I think that it makes a cute skinny scrarf). First, I needed to sort out my dye recipe. After reading a bunch of stuff online, I decided to wing it, sort of. From what I discerned, the dye from the avocado pits is a soft pink while the dye from the skins is more brownish pink in tone. Since I was looking for a sweet, ballet slipper pink, I decided to go with the pits.

I pulled my collection of frozen pits and skins out and I realized that I hadn’t done a great job of thoroughly cleaning them before I popped them in the freezer. Soooooo, I dunked them in some hot water and much to my delight all of the leftover avocado flesh came off with ease.

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From what I had read, you need at least a 1:1 ratio (by weight) of pits to fabric to achieve a strong color. In order to insure that I met this minimum requirement, I weighed my pits and my fabric.

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As you can clearly see, my pits (on the left) outweigh my fabric (on the right) by nearly 4:1, so I’m good to go!  I filled my dedicated dye pot with enough water to allow my fabric to move freely and I added one tablespoon of alum and one teaspoon of cream of tartar. Alum or potassium aluminum sulfate is a fixative or mordant that is often used by natural dyers. It may be helpful to think of it like a molecular glue. Since fibers and dyes often have a weak affinity for one another a mordant, in this case alum, is the “glue” that bonds them together. It is also one of the safest mordants, which is why many dyers will forgo other metal based mordants in favor of alum. However, caution should always be taken when using a powdered metal, so gloves are recommended. Additionally, any tools used (such as measuring spoons) should never be the same ones that you use for food. So please run to the dollar store and buy a set that you will only use for dyeing! The Cream of Tarter acts as a ph buffer and it softens the water for improved results (I got mine at my local Target).

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Next, I threw my pits into the drink and I turned my heat to high.

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Now I moved onto my fiber. I decided to use some very basic shibori folding and binding techniques in order to add some interest and pattern to these pieces. But first, I gave my scarves a quick wash with synthrapol (any mild detergent will do). While they were still wet, I folded them in half like this:

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Next, I accordion folded two of them (like the paper fans that you made when you were a kid). One was then simply rolled up like a little snail and secured with a rubber band and the other one was accordion folded again in the other direction and secured with a series of rubber bands:

 

The last scarf was flag folded and then secured with rubber bands at each corner:

 

Next, I took a look at my dye bath and I noticed that my pits were not giving off ANY color. So I impatiently threw in the avocado skins knowing full well that I may not get the color that I had intended to get. I then tossed all three scarves into the pot. As you can see, the dye bath took on a pinkish hue very quickly after I threw in the avocado peels!

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What came next was a surprise and a bit of a mystery. After allowing my pot to simmer for one hour, I turned off the heat and I took a peek at my scarves. In spite of the fact that the water was a gorgeous deep pink, my scarves looked grey. This was definitely not the ballet slipper pink that I was going for?! I decided to let them soak overnight hoping that a miracle would occur and my scarves would somehow be pink by the next morning.

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Well, as you might have guessed, I was completely delusional. This is what I ended up with the next morning:

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Hmmmmm, what the heck went wrong??? After doing a bunch of hunting around online, the best that I can figure is that some iron or steel got into the mix and “saddened” my color. I had previously used an iron mordant in the same pot and although I cleaned my pot very thoroughly perhaps there was enough iron left in the pot to affect the color? Or, maybe it was the steal in the pot itself. Whatever happened, I needed to figure out what to do next. Although I like grey, my guess was that once these babies dried the color would be a very pale, muted grey that wouldn’t add much in the way of pattern or design.

I decided to use this as an opportunity to add more color and interest, so I took off some rubber bands and I added a few rubber bands (to keep some of the grey).

 

I then threw two scarves into a dye bath that contained three heaping tablespoons of turmeric and one tablespoon of alum. The last scarf went into a brew of beets that had been sitting in my refrigerator for a little while. Okay, so maybe it had been sitting in my refrigerator several months….(I had used it to dye Easter eggs, so only about four months. Don’t judge). I was waiting for the smell to assault me when I opened the jar, but it just smelled like beets and vinegar and there was nothing funky growing. So, I added one tablespoon of alum for good measure and I put the jar outside in the hot Southern California sun for some solar dyeing (which I had never tried before).

I brought my turmeric mixture to a simmer and I let it go for one hour. I then turned off the heat and I let my scarves sit for a few hours to allow the color to deepen. I let my beet jar sit in the sun for about five hours before I pulled out my scarf. Finally, I rinsed all of my scarves thoroughly and I hung them to dry.

 

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The next day, I gave these guys a much needed ironing and I took their picture. Although it’s NOTHING like what I had intended, I’m very happy with the wider yellow scarf. Yes, that yellow is as brilliant as it looks! The pink scarf is definitely the ballet slipper color that I wanted. It’s soft and subtle and sweet while the skinny scarf has some lovely shadowy grey marks from the avocado that contrast nicely against the bright yellow. I toyed with the idea of adding more color to this one but I would hate to loose those soft greys so I decided to leave it alone.

Alas, it was another long and winding trip down dyers lane…I seem to have a lot of those! In the end, I learned a few new things and I’m happy with the outcome, so it’s definitely a win!

The scarf on the right was sold but the one on the left is available for purchase here. 🙂 The one in the middle is in limbo because I ended up not really liking those pointy ends when I tied it. 😦

Thanks for hanging out with me. I always welcome your comments or questions!

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Memory Scarf

 

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Ciao lovely readers! The idea for this scarf came about following my daughter’s performance in a play. To be clear, my little one was Tinkerbell in her school’s second grade play and she received an armful of flowers after her performance (which was awesome – but then I’m obviously totally unbiased). At some point, I looked at my baby girl and I said, “Why don’t we make a scarf out of those flowers? That way we can always remember them and your play.” She was totally game! 

There were some silver dollar eucalyptus in the mix, which I knew would dye well but other than that I had no clue what would and wouldn’t work.

We let the flowers dry out for a week or so before we got started.

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My kiddo picked out a narrow longish silk charmeuse scarf (the Dharma Trading site where I purchased it calls this a belt but it actually makes a cute narrow scarf). 

First we wet the fabric and then we laid it flat. We folded it in half to find the middle and then arranged some flowers and leaves on one half of the scarf. This is important because the second half will then be laid on top which will sandwich the plant material and give you a similar print on either side of the scarf. Capeesh?

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Also important is that we laid the scarf out on top of a length of paper towels.

The flowers and leaves that I could identify are silver dollar eucalyptus, rose petals, and chamomile. The hot pink flower running down the center is unknown to me.

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Next, we put a stick at one end and we rolled everything up including the paper towels. I like to use them as a barrier between the layers so that the leaves and flowers print more clearly.

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The next step is to tie it up into a bundle. We used artificial sinew but twine or white dental floss would work equally well.

We put our bundle into my dedicated dye pot to steam.

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After about two hours of steaming, we took it out and it occurred to me that we would most certainly need to use a mordant of some kind to “fix” the plant dye into the fabric. Although some plant materials like eucalyptus are what is referred to as “substantive” and don’t require a mordant, most are not in this category. So since I had some homemade iron mordant (vinegar and super fine steel wool left in a jar for approximately one week) on hand I poured a few tablespoons of that into my pot, gave it a stir, put the bundle in, brought it to a low simmer, turned the heat down and let it go for an hour or so. An alternative to the iron mordant would be to add approximately one tablespoon of alum.

We pulled out our bundle and took a look. Bear in mind that the fabric is wet so the colors are darker than they will be when the fabric dries.

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Here are some close ups.

At this point, we both felt like the scarf could use a bit more color and pattern and since we still had a ton of plant material we did another layer that mostly consisted of leaves of unknown origin.

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We rolled it up again but this time we skipped the paper towels and we put it straight back into the iron mordant bath. We turned on the heat and let it go for about an hour and then turned off the heat and forgot about it for about 3 or 4 hours. At that point, we pulled it out and let the bundle sit overnight. Some folks who dye using this method let their pieces go for a week or more, but we were too impatient for that.

Here it is when we first unrolled it. I’m honestly not sure how much round two added to the design?  But, and this is a big but, my daughter loves it! Now we have the memory of the event permanently on fabric and we have the memory of making the scarf! 🙂 So lovely.

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Finally, we hung the scarf outside to dry and ironed it.

In conclusion, it seems to me that the eucalyptus really did the heavy lifting here. The other plant material added a bit of texture and color and the iron mordant definitely added some grey bits here and there. The eucalyptus left some fairly defined prints but it’s really the gorgeous shades of orange and rust and peach that are the most striking. The other leaves didn’t leave distinct shapes behind. Perhaps a much longer sit would have made a significant difference. I also noticed that the steaming method seemed to do a better job of transferring the color into the fiber. So in addition to a wonderful memory with my daughter, I learned a thing or two. Win, win!!!

Here’s my girl modeling her new treasure. Bellissimo! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Plum and Eucalyptus Leaf Printed Scarf

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Hello dear readers! I was taking a walk the other day when I noticed some ornamental plum trees in an open space area. I recalled reading that they could be used for dye so I plucked a few leaves. The color of the leaves was really gorgeous and the leaf shape was pleasingly simple so I decided that a leaf printing technique would be fun to try on a silk chiffon scarf. My next thought was that the pretty purple would look great contrasted against the orange from eucalyptus leaves. Lucky for me, there was a eucalyptus tree just down the hill from the plum tree so I picked a few stems.

Materials:

  • Ornamental Plum Leaves
  • Eucalyptus leaves  – not all species are created equal, so please be sure that you are using leaves from a tree that will dye your fabric
  • Protein fiber such as silk or wool – I’m using an 11 x 90 inch silk chiffon scarf
  • Paper towels
  • Stick or dowel
  • Artificial sinew, twine or dental floss
  • Dye pot – please use a pot that is exclusively used for dyeing!
  • Steamer basket – again for dyeing purposes only!
  • Alum 

Tutorial

Step 1: Wet your fabric and fold it in half so that you can find the middle. Lay one half of your fabric on some paper towels and bunch up the remainder (see pic below).

FYI – I am doing this because I would like the same image on both sides of the scarf. By “sandwiching” your leaves your print will be repeated on either side of your piece.

Step 2: Lay out your leaves to create a pattern of some sort.

Step 3: Carefully place the second half of your fabric on top of the first. I’m not going to lie, this is a pain in the butt. You will probably have to go back and rearrange your leaves along the length of your fabric more than one time. I noticed that I would get one section right and then move on only to find that the prior section had shifted. Grrr! Hang in there, with a little patience and persistence you will get it done!

Here are steps 1-3:

Step 4: Place a stick or a dowel at one end of your scarf and roll tightly and smoothly making sure to include your paper towel. The paper towel will act as a barrier so that your fabric doesn’t bleed back onto itself. For a more eco friendly alternative you could use a scrap piece of fabric in place of the paper towels.

Step 5: Now that you have your cute little bundle, you will need to tie it tightly to hold everything together and to insure that the fabric and the leaves are nice and cozy. I’m using artificial sinew but you could easily use twine or dental floss (It probably goes without saying, but you will need to use the white stuff, no blue colored mint dental floss).

Step 6: Add an inch or so of water to your dedicated dye pot, put your steamer basket inside, add your bundle and put a lid on your pot. Turn your heat to high and bring your water to a boil. Once your water is boiling turn your heat to low and steam for 2 hours. I typically turn my bundle about half way through. I’m not sure if this does anything, but it makes me feel better. 🙂

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Step 7: Let your bundle cool in the pot and let it sit overnight.

Step 8: Unwrap your bundle and take a look. This is always my favorite part! However, my results were less than spectacular. 😦

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Okay, so here’s where I messed up. First I assumed that the tree that I got my leaves from was the same variety as the tree that I had previously obtained leaves from (they looked very similar). After this result, I took a closer look at my leaves and stems and I could clearly see that this was not the same species of eucalyptus (there are over 900 varieties!). Here they are side by side:

The leaves and stems on the right came from a red ironbark or sideroxylon tree that sits just behind my back fence. The leaves on the left were the ones that I used for this scarf. Below is an example of the result that I got from the red ironbark tree, quelle difference!

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And another thing…I failed to consider the fact that natural dyes fall into two categories, substantive and adjective. Substantive dyes don’t require a mordant or fixative to be permanent and light fast. Examples of substantive dyes are eucalyptus, turmeric, tea and onion skins. However, most natural dyes fall into the adjective category and require a fixative of some sort. The most basic mordants are salt and vinegar but natural dyers often use fixatives such as tannin or alum which are quite low in terms of their toxicity. This information is relevant to this discussion because while the eucalyptus is a substantive dye, the plum is not and it will most certainly fade if I don’t “fix” it.

Last but not least, although this doesn’t qualify as something that I messed up, I noticed that I got a good depth of color and detail from the front sides of the plum leaves while the backsides are pale and blobby. So, I’m back to the drawing board!

*To avoid having to make any corrections and to get a beautiful result from the get go I would do the following:

First, use the correct eucalyptus leaves! This may require a little research. Red ironbarks are relatively easy to spot because of their bright red stems (yes, I know that I screwed this up, please don’t remind me!). Silver dollar eucalyptus are also a good choice and you can generally pick them up at Trader Joes (in the US).

Now as for the plum leaves, I would simply double them up so that the face of the leaf is facing the fabric on both sides. With regard to “fixing” the plum leaves, you have a few options. You can pre-mordant your fabric or you can add your mordant to your dye bath. The second option is much faster and easier so I vote for that one! Instead of steaming your fabric bundle place it in a water bath that contains one gallon of water and one tablespoon of alum (or vinegar and tea – see below). Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for one hour. Turn off your heat and let your bundle soak for about 2-24 hours. 

Alright, if you’re interested in hearing the rest of this saga, sigh, here’s how I corrected my errors. First I laid out the half of my scarf with the “good’ plum print. Then I gathered a bunch of eucalyptus leaves that had fallen into my yard from the nearby tree and I placed them along the length of my scarf. Next I carefully put the second half of the fabric on top. This was still a bit tricky but it wasn’t as hard as it was the first time that I did it.  I then put some plum leaves onto the side of the fabric that didn’t print well. My guess is that they may bleed a bit onto the “good” side…so my fingers are crossed that this doesn’t totally mess that side up. I then laid more paper towels on top, placed my stick at one end and rolled the whole thing up.

After binding my bundle with sinew, I put it in a water bath that contained one part vinegar to four parts of water (I ran out of alum, so although alum would be my preference, I’m using vinegar instead).  I also added a tea bag to help soften the color and to aid in fixing the plum (the tannin in tea is a natural fixative). I then brought it to a boil, turned down the heat and let it simmer for one hour. Finally, I turned off the heat and I let the bundle soak for about 5 hours.

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This is how it looked when I unwrapped my bundle and let it dry:

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So the good news is that the eucalyptus is much better! The not so great news is that my plan to improve the plum leaves didn’t work out very well. They actually look worse. Because I am a perfectionist (which is truly a curse) and I simply can’t leave well enough alone, I got out some Inktense sticks and a little brown fabric paint and I went to work defining those plum leaves.

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After I was (finally) satisfied with my scarf, I let it cure for 24 hours and I heat set it before giving it a wash and hanging it to dry. Another quick press with my iron and it’s done…

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I think it’s really pretty and I learned a lot, so alls well that ends well. Thanks for hanging in there with me through this one!

Eco Dyed Easter Eggs

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Okay folks, my objective is to make these as simple as possible. Like me, I’m sure that many of you are busy parents, or simply busy people. So the thought of going to the trouble of eco dyeing eggs is a bit daunting especially when you can run to the store and buy those nasty little tablets and voila – dyed eggs! Yes, I’ve done it. Many times. But this year, I will be eco dyeing and it will not be difficult. Alright, so maybe it will be more work than those little tablets, but you will be able to rest easy knowing that your eggs are totally free of synthetic dyes. And that’s worth its weight in gold, right?!

Let me break it down for you. You only need to make three colors – the primary ones (red, blue, and yellow). All of the other colors will be derived from those colors. So if you’re up for doing that, then you’re good to go!

Materials:

  • Two dozen hard boiled eggs
  • Red beets (about three large)
  • Purple cabbage (about 1 medium sized head) – this will make blue dye!
  • Turmeric
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Pot for boiling
  • 6 glass jars with lids (the standard wide mouth Ball jars work great)

Tutorial

Step 1: Rough chop your beets until you have about 4 cups – I used three large beets. Rough chop your head of cabbage until you have 8 cups – I used one medium cabbage. For the turmeric you will need 2-4 tablespoons (depending upon how yellow you want your eggs). Place each dye stuff in a separate pot. Add 8 cups of water and 4 tablespoons of vinegar to each pot. Bring to a boil, turn your heat down to medium and set your timer for 30 minutes. Strain your liquid and put it back in your pot. The turmeric pot can remain as is – no straining needed. At this point, you can let your liquid cool off or not, it’s up to you. Since I’m Little Miss Impatient, I didn’t wait. 

 

Step 2: Put 4 hard boiled eggs into each of the 6 glass jars. Use a ladle to put your primary colors (red, blue, yellow) into three of your jars. Fill until your eggs are completely covered. Now you will need to mix your dye to get your secondary colors:

  • Orange – approximately 3/4 turmeric dye to 1/4 beet dye
  • Green – approximately 3/4 turmeric dye to 1/4 cabbage dye
  • Purple – approximately 3/4 cabbage dye to 1/4 beet dye

Next just let your eggs soak. You can check your colors periodically to see how they are doing. For pastels it will take 30-60 minutes. For darker colors it will take several hours. You can even let them sit overnight if you want really saturated colors. I would pop them in the refrigerator if you decide to do this.

Once I got all of my eggs in their jars I went outside to arrange a beautiful picture for you (my lovely readers). I put my glass jars in a pretty little row on top of a wood table that was set against a white canvas. Then BAM a gust of wind kicked up and the whole thing fell forward. I wanted to cry. Two jars broke – tiny shards of glass went EVERYWHERE and most of the eggs cracked. Total nightmare. I was able to salvage three jars. :/

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So after cleaning up my gigantic mess and walking away for a bit to clear my head, I decided to go ahead and photograph all of the eggs so that you could see the colors. I’m so sad that there are so many cracked eggs because they are really pretty. 😦

If you decide to try this (and I really hope that you do) I have a few words to the wise. This is not an exact science and as you will soon see…your colors don’t always come out exactly as predicted. But that’s half the fun, especially when you are eco dyeing! So feel free to experiment! Vary the duration of time that your eggs sit in the the dye so that you get a range of colors. Or change up the ratios of dye in your mixtures and see what happens. Last but not least, this project is on the stinky side. The cabbage doesn’t smell great and the combo with the beets and the turmeric isn’t wonderful. So open up your windows and dye some eggs!

Here they are. 🙂

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As you can see, my red went a little brown. I think it may have been because I threw some beet stems and roots into the mix. Of course this affected the secondary colors that I used it for…I don’t mind how the orange came out and the deep teal blue (last pic) is gorgeous but I was going for purple. I think this color was a result of the red being on the brown side and using too much blue in my mix. The variation in blues (bottom left) resulted from leaving the eggs in the dye for differing lengths of time. The lighter color took about 30 minutes while the darker blue took about three hours. You could get a beautiful ombre affect by using a dozen eggs and dyeing them in one color for differing lengths of time. Maybe next year. 🙂

Happy Easter!

 

Dyeing with Turmeric Shibori Style

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Hello Sunshine! I have been wanting to try turmeric dyeing for a while now. Some of the examples that I have seen online are really beautiful. Much like the spice itself, the yellow is super saturated and gorgeous like bright golden sunshine! I love saturated colors so this is right up my alley. I figured that a pillow case would be a good starting point. To add a design element I will be doing a stitch resist shibori technique.

Materials:

  • silk pillow case – animal or protein fibers such as silk and wool will dye brighter than plant based fibers such as cotton or hemp, but any natural fiber will work
  • something round – I’m using a ceramic plate
  • washable marker or a vanishing fabric marker
  • artificial sinew, embroidery floss, or dental floss
  • large pot – a dedicated dye pot is recommended
  • 8 cups of water
  • 4 heaping tablespoons of turmeric – I bought a jar at Trader Joes for $1.99
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of alum – this is a mordant or fixative, I buy mine here 

 Tutorial

Step 1: Create a simple design on your fabric. I traced around a plate with a washable marker

Step 2: Stitch around your circle as shown below. I’m using artificial sinew because it is waterproof and I’m hoping it will give me nice clean lines. Make certain that your sinew (or whatever) is long enough to go around your circle and that you are left with a long tail (this will make more sense in a minute). In order to accommodate the sinew, I’m using a largish embroidery needle. If you do the same, you will notice that the needle will make small holes in your fabric. Don’t freak out, it will be fine as long as you’re okay with the holes. 🙂 If you are not okay with them then use a smaller needle and dental floss or embroidery floss. I’m going through both layers of the pillow case at once but you could certainly limit your stitching to the top layer if you want the back of your pillow to be a solid color. I’m also weaving the needle through multiple times with each pass (which makes this process go so much faster!).

Step 3: Now pull your sinew tightly making sure to pull the fabric in the center of your circle straight up.

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Step 4: Take your tail (the one you left earlier) and bind the center of your circle with your sinew. I want a lot of white so I’m binding quite a bit of the fabric. I would also like a solid colored circle in the center so I’m leaving a bit of fabric at the top.

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Step 5: Put four cups of water into your pot with one heaping tablespoon of alum and four heaping tablespoons of turmeric. Turn your heat to high and give your powders a few minutes to dissolve.

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Step 6: Wet your fabric (wet fabric accepts dye more evenly) and put it in your pot. Bring to a simmer and turn your heat down. For a nice medium yellow set your timer for one hour.

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Step 7: Once you are happy with the color of your fabric take it out, give it a rinse, untie your sinew, rinse again until your water runs clear and let it air dry. Iron to get out any wrinkles and to increase the colorfastness of your fabric.

I wanted my color to be really saturated so after one hour was up, I turned off the heat and let it sit for about four hours.

Please note that turmeric can be a fugitive dye meaning that it may fade over time and/or with exposure to the sun. The alum and the heat setting will help to prevent this from happening. Additionally, protein fibers like silk and wool accept the dye more readily and are more colorfast than plant based fibers.

Here’s the finished product. The yellow is SO gorgeous and happy! The dye pot is calling me to throw something else in…perhaps a scarf this time?

If you would rather buy than DIY go here.

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Eucalyptus Leaf Print Tutorial

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Hello folks! If you read my first post on eucalyptus dyeing then you may have gathered that I was none too thrilled with my results. So I was determined to get back to it and see if I could get some crisp eucalyptus leaf prints. I figured that it might be nice to work on a smaller scale this time (or at least until I achieve a result that I am pleased with) so I will be using some silk pillow covers. Here goes!

Materials:

  • protein fiber such as silk or wool
  • vinegar
  • eucalyptus leaves (you will need to find a eucalyptus species that is suitable for dyeing such as red ironbark or silver dollar)
  • paper towels
  • stick, small piece of pipe, or a dowel
  • artificial sinew or twine
  • pot with steamer basket – please use a pot that is dedicated to dyeing!
  • Derwent Inktense color blocks (optional)
  • iron

Tutorial

Step 1: Alright first things first! Technically you can dye nearly any natural fiber with eucalyptus. However, if you choose a protein or animal fiber like silk or wool you will not need to use a mordant (mordants help to fix dye to fabric). So if you would like to use cotton or linen you will need to pre-soak your fabric in a mordant such as alum. Alum is available online and some say you can buy it at the grocery store although I have never seen it there. I generally purchase mine here.  As I previously mentioned, I will be using two blank silk pillow covers that I purchased through Dharma Trading (I swear they need to start paying me for the free advertising!).

As far as the eucalyptus is concerned, this may require a little research if you don’t have easy access to a tree. The silver dollar variety is readily available in the U.S. through florists and some markets. I would try Trader Joes since their prices on flowers and plants can’t be beat! The leaf shape on this variety is much more circular (as the name implies) so you will end up with a different but no less lovely result. I will be showing you two examples of this process, one is very simple and the next is a bit more complex.

Now let’s get down to business! First wet your fiber in a vinegar bath. This isn’t absolutely necessary but it will help to fix the dye and it’s an easy step so why not? If you choose not to use vinegar you should definitely wet your fabric. Then lay it out onto a layer of paper towels making sure that it is as flat and smooth as possible. I didn’t do this the first time and I needed to carefully lift up my fabric (with the leaves already in place) to slide the paper towel underneath. So learn from my mistakes people and put down the paper towel first! Then lay out your design on one half of your fabric. I’m doing this in part because I like that I will get a mirror image of my design but this also allows me to make a smaller bundle that will easily fit into my steamer basket (this will make more sense later). If you have a larger steam set up and want to do a different design then go for it!

 

Step 2: Lay the second half of your fabric on top of the first being careful not to disturb your design. Press with your hands to smooth.

 

Step 3: Place another layer of paper towel on top of your fabric then use a stick (I’m using a piece of eucalyptus), a small pipe or a dowel to roll your fabric into a bundle. Be mindful not to disturb your design as you are rolling it up. Tie it tightly with artificial sinew or twine to create a neat bundle.

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Step 4: Place in your steamer basket and turn your heat to high. When it comes to a boil turn your heat to low and let it go for one hour. When your hour is up, turn your bundle over and steam for one more hour.

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Step 5: Let your bundle cool completely and unroll. Some folks say that you should wait 24 hours to open your bundle, but having tried this I really didn’t feel like it made much of a difference. It’s truly like opening up a present! Here’s what I got.

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Sooooo pretty! I love that there is variation in the leaf color on number one. And the shadow of each leaf is nice in number two – I’m not sure why that happened but I like it. I decided to add stems to the second one using these. I took the red and rubbed it on the metal lid, then added some dark grey and a bit of orange. I added some water with a small brush and I was able to get a nice reddish orange.

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Hmmmm, maybe I liked it better before the stems? What do you think? I’m toying with the idea of giving this one a quick dunk in some black tea. Stay tuned…

Step 6: Hang your fabric to dry and let it sit for a minimum of 24 hours to “cure.” Waiting truly is the hardest part!!!

Step 7: Iron to set your design, give it a quick wash in a mild detergent, hang to dry and iron again.  Now they’re ready for their cover shots!

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So as you can see I decided to give both of them a little tea bath. I dunked them for approximately one minute and then rinsed them under some cold running water. I then ironed them while they were still wet to set the color. They dried almost immediately with the hot iron.

Although I loved the crisp white background I began to notice that the areas where the dye had bled were looking a bit like the pillow case was dirty, which was not a good look! I figured that a creamier background would help to blend things. Mission accomplished. 🙂