Indigo Shibori Scarf Tutorial

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Hello dear readers! I figured that it was about time that I do some straight up indigo shibori dyeing for you! I will walk you through setting up your indigo dye vat and doing a very simple shibori technique on a beautiful piece of fabric – with spectacular results (if I do say so myself). 🙂

But first, let’s chat a bit about indigo. Ah, indigo…sublime indigo. It’s such an amazing color! If you have ever toyed with the idea of dyeing with indigo, I say DO IT! Dharma Trading sells a kit for $8.49 that includes everything you need for one 5 gallon vat that will dye up to 15 yards of fabric. Ridiculous.

But I digress, back to indigo for a minute. Indigo is an ancient dye that has been in use for thousands of years. In fact, in September of 2016 Smithsonian.com reported:

Archaeologists recently uncovered several scraps of indigo-dyed fabric at the Huaca Prieta ceremonial mound in northern Peru. Believed to be about 6,200 years old, this find pushes back the date for the earliest known use of the dye by roughly 1,600 years, Cynthia Graber reports for Scientific American.

You can find a nice summary of the history and use of indigo on Design Sponge. Here are a few excerpts:

Indigo is a colorfast, plant-based dye that can come from a number of different plants, but it was primarily found in Indigofera, a tropical plant that was cultivated and became a staple agricultural crop. There are three steps to the traditional process of extracting the dye from the plant. First the leaves are fermented in a steeping vat. Then a liquid is extracted and oxidized, and from that, a blue solid forms in the bottom of the vat that is collected and dried. In the 19th century most indigo was made in British-run factories in India.

Indigo is different from all other natural dyes (apart from shellfish purple) in that it needs no mordant (a substance used to set dyes on fabrics); it is insoluble and is deposited on the fibers as microscopic particles without needing to form a chemical bond with them. The chemical properties of indigo dye remained baffling well into the 19th century. It was so mysterious and challenging to work with that, in many cultures, folklore arose around the dyeing process. In Bhutan, pregnant women were not allowed near the vat in case the unborn baby stole the blues, and women in Morocco believed the only way to deal with a particularly challenging vat was to start telling outrageous lies. All this trouble was worth the final result. Once dyed, indigo is so colorfast that it can last for centuries or even millennia.

I love the bit about outrageous lies and I love that the amazing history of indigo gives a context for dyeing with and wearing this glorious color.

Please note that the indigo I am using is what’s known as “pre-reduced indigo.” This means that the dye molecules have already been processed so that they are able to dissolve in water without the effort (and chemicals/yeast/or stale urine – seriously) that would otherwise be required. Indigo purists would probably take offense to the pre-reduced version, but this form has the distinct advantage of being incredibly fast and user friendly by comparison.

I had previously been under the impression that the pre-reduced indigo crystals were naturally derived. However, from what I understand they are what is known as a “synthetic organic.” This an organic compound that is synthesized in a lab and that is chemically identical to it’s natural counterpart.

Materials:

  • 5 gallon bucket (I got mine at Home Depot)
  • 4 gallons of water
  • reuseable gloves
  • Pre-reduced indigo crystals
  • Thiox or Color Remover
  • Soda Ash Fixer
  • Stir stick
  • Fabric – indigo works on cellulose or plant based fibers like cotton or linen and protein fibers like silk and wool. I’m using a silk and wool blend scarf/shawl from Dharma Trading.
  • Mild detergent – I use Synthrapol
  • Acrylic circle
  • Rubber bands
  • Various containers (see below)

Tutorial

Please be sure to work outside or in a well ventilated area. Also, please be mindful that indigo is a DYE and it will stain whatever you are working on or around, so take appropriate precautions. Wear gloves and don’t use any bowls or measuring cups from your kitchen! All tools should be dedicated to dyeing – so if this is not already the case, run to the dollar store and pick up a few bowls, cups, measuring spoons and containers.

1. Fill you five gallon bucket with four gallons of water. The water should be cool to the touch (between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 15-21 degrees Celsius).

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As you can see, my bucket has been used many times for indigo dyeing. By adding chemicals and or indigo you can actually keep a vat going for many months. My last indigo vat went for about a year! Here are directions for tending an indigo vat (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

If you are using the kit mentioned above, you don’t have to weigh or measure anything! Since I generally purchase my dye and chemicals in larger quantities, I will need to weigh it all out. If you don’t have a scale you can convert grams to tablespoons or cups online.

2. Weigh your Thiox (Color Remover) and add it to your bucket. The recipe I’m using calls for 160 grams.

3. Weigh your pre-reduced indigo crystals and add them to your bucket. The recipe I’m using calls for 50 grams. I wanted a really strong vat, so I’m using 100 grams. I have read that your fabric will be more colorfast if you use a “regular” (i.e. 50 gram) vat and dip your fabric multiple times to darken the color (rather than using a strong vat and fewer dips). So far, this hasn’t born out to be true for me. However, I have predominantly dyed scarves that are washed very infrequently. So perhaps this more critical for garments that need to stand up to repeated washing?

4. Weigh out 240 grams of soda ash. Next, add a little hot water to your soda ash to help it dissolve (mine looks blue in the pic below because there was some indigo residue left in my jar). Your soda ash won’t dissolve completely but not to worry, your vat will be fine!

5. Time to stir the pot…or in this case, the vat (sorry, I couldn’t help myself!). Use a dowel or a large stir stick (I used a paint stir stick from Home Depot) to stir your dye. Stir it in a circle in one direction about 10 or 15 times and then slow down and go the other direction the same number of times. Before removing your stick, drag it along the outer edge of your bucket. This will bring the foam to the top. The foam is referred to as the “flower.” Underneath your flower, your mixture should be yellow-green in color.

6. Let your vat sit for a bit before using it. I prefer to let mine sit overnight but according to several sources you can use it 15-30 minutes after your done adding everything. You will want to be certain that the dye is yellow-green in color under the flower. If it’s not, wait another 15-30 minutes and check again.

7. Time to prepare your fabric! I’m using a gorgeous silk and wool blend (63% silk and 37% wool) scarf/shawl from Dharma Trading. This fabric is super soft and warm but incredibly lightweight. It’s truly a beautiful fiber and it takes indigo dye extremely well. It’s very important that you always wash your fabric before dyeing it. Even fabric that is PFD (prepared for dye) may have “schmutz” on it that can affect your final result. I use Synthrapol to wash my fabric but any mild detergent will work. Simply give it a quick wash and wring it out before moving on to the next step.

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8. Now it’s time for some shibori! My fabric is 36 x 80 inches so it required quite a bit of folding. First, I folded it in half width wise. Next, I accordion folded it lengthwise. Finally, I accordion folded it until I had a neat little folded stack of fabric. This actually sounds much more complicated than it is. I Promise. The most challenging aspect in this case was the shear size of the fabric and the fact that the fabric was wet. But, wet fabric is KEY. You never want to put dry fabric into an indigo vat (or any dye bath for that matter) and you don’t want to wet the fabric after it’s folded because the folds interfere with the fabric’s ability to absorb water evenly.

If you have never done this before, you may want to practice with a piece of paper first. You can even dip your paper into your vat to get an idea of the pattern you will create with your folds! Here’s a diagram that should help you get the idea.

Here’s my little my stack of folded fabric…

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9. Now it’s time to add a resist. I’m using two 4 3/4 inch acrylic discs that I got here. Apparently, these are intended for cake decorating, but they work great for this purpose and they are affordable. I had actually intended to use a 3 inch circle for this project, but I inadvertently ordered the bigger size, so I decided to go for it! I simply placed a disc on either side of my pile and I used rubber bands to secure it in both directions.

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10. When you are ready to dye, you will first need to remove the “flower” from your vat. I scooped mine out with a plastic dollar store strainer and I put it in a plastic dollar store container (you must save your flower because you will put it right back onto your vat when you are done). Now grab another container so that you will have someplace to set your fabric bundle when it comes out of the dye. Did I mention the dollar store? 🙂

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11. Grab hold of your fabric bundle with a gloved hand and give it a dunk in your vat. I held mine under for about a minute before pulling it out.

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Okay, so the green leaves that look like they’re growing in and floating on my dye are actually just a reflection of the leaves that are growing up the fence behind my vat! So crazy!!!

12. Pull your bundle out and place it in a container of some sort. Let it sit for 20 minutes to oxidize. This is actually one of the coolest parts of this process. Your fabric will look green when it comes out of the dye bath and as it hits the air and begins to oxidize it will turn blue!

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Unfortunately, my bundle has already oxidized a bit in this pic but you can still see some green on the right side. If you look carefully at the bottom you can also see the clouds above and the leaves on the fence behind my container reflected in the acrylic disc. 🙂 🙂 🙂

13. You will need to continue to dip your bundle until your reach the color you desire (bearing in mind that the fabric will look several shades darker when wet). Depending upon the strength of your vat, this could take four or more times. Since my vat is very strong, I only dipped my fabric two times. Be sure to allow your fabric to oxidize for 20 minutes between each dip.

14. When you have reached your desired shade of indigo and your bundle has finished oxidizing, it’s time to rinse. I like to keep my bundle intact and rinse it until the water has a very small amount of blue left in it before I open it up. I do this in order to prevent the indigo from dyeing the fabric that I want to keep white. After you have opened up your fabric, rinse it until your water runs clear. Giving your fabric another quick wash with detergent will also help to remove any excess dye. This can take a little while so try to be patient (says the incredibly inpatient woman).

By the way…opening up a shibori bundle is one of the greatest joys of this process. It really is like opening a present! You never know exactly what you’ll get, which is part of the beauty and mystery of dyeing.

15. Hang your fabric to dry and iron if necessary.

16. Put the lovely “flower” that you removed from your vat right back on top. This will help to seal your vat and keep oxygen out. This is important because too much oxygen will negatively affect your indigo vat. Next, stir your vat in the same back and forth circular manner described above and put the lid on.

Here’s my result! You might have thought that I would get a circle shaped pattern…but as you can see, it turned out to be more like a square or grid pattern. I’m sure this was due to the fact that the circle was so large in relation to the size of my folded fabric stack and because I secured my stack with rubber bands (rather than a c-clamp – which would hold the resist much more strongly and result in a more well defined pattern).

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If you are looking for a more distinct circle or square…here’s the secret. Once you have folded your fabric place your resist (acrylic/wood circle or square – or whatever) onto your fabric and clamp it tightly with a c-clamp. In the first example below, I added some rubber bands after I clamped on my shape. The next two scarves also employ clamp resist shibori (itajime) techniques and the last piece was dip dyed into my vat. A few of these babies are still available in my etsy shop.

If you have an questions or if you have dyed with pre-reduced indigo and you have something to add, please feel free to comment!

Last, but not least, as I mentioned previously, a properly tended indigo vat can last a very long time so this is by no means the end of your indigo journey! Even if you just buy the little kit I talked about, you have lots of dyeing to do before your vat is exhausted. Also, setting up your vat really is the hardest part. Once that’s done it’s simply a matter of prepping your fabric, dipping and waiting and rinsing which is WAY easier and less time intensive than many other types of dyeing. So have at it!

 

 

 

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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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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Eco Dyeing with Eucalyptus – Part Two

Alright so I decided to move on and make a vat of eucalyptus dye. Over the fence I went to snatch some more leaves. While I was clipping I saw some low hanging branches with flowers and pods and I couldn’t resist.

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Okay, so I got a little carried away with the pictures. But, really pretty, right? I’m not sure how the flowers and pods will affect the dye but I’m throwing them in the pot. After doing more research, I saw that a lot of folks were soaking their leaves overnight and then simmering for two hours followed by another overnight sit and then possibly more simmering. Geez!

I filled my pot and added filtered water from our reverse osmosis unit. I had read that rainwater is best for your dye pot, but since that is in short supply here (even with our El Nino winter), I decided to use filtered water. When I first saw the recommendation to use rainwater it seemed really “granola” and I figured that it was more about being eco-conscious. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE granola and I’m definitely eco-conscious but I have since come to learn that there is a more specific reason. Apparently tap water can contain trace amounts of copper and other minerals that can affect the color of your dye. So the rainwater is presumably more pure. I’m not so sure about that, but at least I understand the rationale.

As I was gathering my leaves I couldn’t help but notice the gorgeous red color of the stems as well as a bit of red on some of the leaves. Hopefully this bodes well for my dye pot!

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Materials:

  • eucalyptus (red ironbark, silver dollar – if you use this variety it must be fresh not dried )
  • rainwater or RO water – optional
  • protein fiber – I’m using silk chiffon scarves
  • rubber bands
  • patience!!!

Tutorial

Step 1: Put your plant material in your dye pot, cover with water and let it sit overnight. Here’s my pot, it’s a little more than halfway full:

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Step 2: Bring your pot to a low simmer and let it go for 2 hours.

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It’s looking a little murky at this point.

Step 3: Let your pot sit overnight…or not. I did some more reading and I saw that some people were saying that it can take 3-4 hours of simmering to extract the color from the leaves. So, I decided to simmer my pot for another hour or so. The color is looking much better, yay!

It sat overnight and I brought it to a simmer again for about one hour and I let it sit for most of the day. My patience has been rewarded! Look at that gorgeous color! This really isn’t a project for those of you who want fast and easy results!

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Step 4: Give your fabric a quick wash and fold and/or bind it to create a pattern. I prefer a pattern to a solid color, but obviously this is completely up to you.  If you are dyeing a scarf then be certain to fold it in half end to end if you want the pattern to match on each side. At this point, I will be employing the following itajime shibori folding techniques:

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Both images are from this site.

 

 

So here are my folded stacks per the above diagrams. As you can see, I then bound each of them with rubber bands.

Step 5: Put your fabric in your dye bath leaving all of the plant material in place. Bring to a simmer and let it go for two hours.

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Step 6: Turn off the heat and let your fabric sit for another two hours.

Step 7: Unbind and unfold your fabric and let it dry. It should “cure” for at least one day. Iron to heat set. Done, finally! The color is more terra cotta than the orange-red I was hoping for, but that’s okay. I think I extracted every possible ounce of color from those leaves!

 

 

My Thoughts:

After spending the last week or so immersed in eucalyptus dyeing I have mixed feelings. I love that it’s an “eco” process that doesn’t require any chemicals or toxic ingredients. I also LOVE that the dye is free. 🙂 The color is pretty and it’s fun to experiment with natural materials. But you have to be incredibly patient and persistent. I really can’t stress the patience part enough. This is a multi-day, multi-step process. It was definitely (mostly) fun and I certainly learned a lot. So all in all, no regrets. Next, I’m itching to do some more eucalyptus bundles and I’m hoping that I can get some beautiful, clean leaf prints (unlike the prints that I got in Part 1!).

To check out some of my leaf prints go here and here.

 

Rust Dyeing Shibori Style

In my never ending quest to find new and interesting techniques, I recently stumbled upon rust dyeing. I was intrigued by what I saw so I decided to give it a go!

This is a fairly easy technique and since rust or iron oxide is sometimes used as a mordant in and of itself, no mordant is required (mordants “fix” or make dye permanent). Rust will dye virtually any fiber, however, natural fibers like silk or cotton work best.

First off, I had to get some rusty stuff. Given the fact that I live in sunny (drought stricken) Southern California, I simply didn’t have any rusty stuff laying around. So, option one was to scrounge around my garage for some metal objects and then rust them myself. There are various ways to do this, but the best method seems to be a combo of vinegar and salt and time. I wanted instant rust, so I moved on to option two…buy some rusty junk online. Yes, people actually sell rusty junk online! And people (eh…me) actually pay good money for that rusty junk! Here’s a sample of what I got:

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The first technique that I’m going to try involves using rusty screws that are bound to the fabric and then left to sit for a day or two. I saw an example on another blog and I loved how it turned out.

My research also revealed that if you overdye the rust dyed fabric with black tea you get a a darker or “saddened” result. This is largely due to the tannins in the tea which act as modifiers. Modifiers shift the pH levels and subsequently the color palate. Since I prefer blacks and grays to rusty brown, I will be trying this as well. So come along as I venture into two new (to me) techniques!

Materials:

  • natural fiber – I’m using an 8mm silk Habotai scarf that is 14 x 72 inches
  • vinegar
  • rusty screws
  • artificial sinew, string, or dental floss
  • salt
  • Earl Grey tea (loose leaf) – optional

Tutorial

Step 1: Wet your fabric in a vinegar bath. The vinegar significantly speeds up the rusting process, so don’t skip this step! Next, tie on your rusty screws. I used artificial sinew (available at Dharma Trading) but you could use string or dental floss. I wound the sinew around one screw at each end of the scarf and I spaced three more screws somewhat equally along the length of the scarf. I then gave it another little soak in some vinegar.

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I can already see the rust transferring on the heads of the screws. 🙂

Step 2: Next simply place your rusty bundle in a plastic bag, seal it well and let it sit. From what I have read the “sit time” needs to be a minimum of 24 hours and can be as long as 4 or 5 days. I’m very impatient, so this may be difficult. Basically, you want to wait as long as it takes to achieve whatever color you prefer while bearing in mind that the color looks darker when wet. I prefer deeper more intense colors to pale colors so this may take a while…

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It’s been 24 hours. Not ready yet!
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48 hours, looks good!

Step 3: Take your fabric out of the bag and let it sit for another 24 hours to “cure.”

It hasn’t been 24 hours, but I couldn’t wait any longer so I untied the screws and took a look. So pretty!!!

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I love how the fabric formed to the shape of the screws and the print is gorgeous! I promise I won’t touch it again until it hits the 24 hour mark!

Step 4: Iron the fabric to set the color. I used paper towels to protect my ironing board and more paper towels to protect my iron. Right now I’m loving the color so I’m on the fence about tea dyeing.

Step 5: If you decided not to tea dye then you will need to stop the rust from continuing to oxidize your fabric. Mix one gallon of hot water with one tablespoon of salt and soak your fabric for 15-20 minutes. In addition to stopping the rust, this will also help to fix your color.

Step 7: This is optional people! I eventually got off the fence and decided to go for it. Here’s my scarf soaking in a bath of salt and Earl Grey. It’s difficult to see here, but the color appears to have shifted towards the grey tones.

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Step 8: Wash your garment in a mild detergent or shampoo (shampoo actually works great on silk because it is a protein fiber just like hair). I generally use a professional textile detergent called Synthrapol (available at Dharma Trading). Hang to dry and iron.

Here’s the finished product. What do you think???

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Hmmmmm, well it definitely turned grey but the rusty brown stayed sort of rusty?! I wish the deep brown that was there when I untied the screws had stayed put. Otherwise, I think it’s really beautiful. Unfortunately, I noticed two very small holes at the center of two of the circles (where the heads of the screws were). I’m not sure why this happened since there was nothing sharp in these areas. Perhaps the rust actually ate little holes in the fabric? I think I may take another swing at this one at some point soon. Thanks for taking this journey with me! Please feel free to comment!

 

 

 

 

Reverse Shibori Tutorial

Okay, so this post will get you going with some basic shibori techniques. If you want a detailed explanation of shibori go here. But, and this is a big but, you don’t have to know what shibori is or how to do it in order to make this scarf!

I primarily utilize itajime shibori in my work. This particular type of shibori focuses on using resists to create designs. Resists can be rubber bands, string, or shapes (wood or acrylic) to name a few. Generally, the fabric is folded first which is a “resist” in and of itself and then a “physical” resist of some sort is applied before the fabric enters the dye bath. Reverse shibori differs from traditional shibori in that color is removed rather than added.

*Please note, since this is a reverse process you will need to start off with a dark colored scarf. The color that your scarf discharges to will vary depending upon the original color and the dye used. Synthetic fabrics will NOT discharge (ask me how I know), so please use a natural fiber like cotton or linen. Also, you cannot discharge silk using this particular technique (again, ask me how I know). 🙂 Obviously you can purchase a dark colored scarf, or better yet, use one that you already own or dye one yourself!

Materials:

  • dark colored natural fabric (cotton, linen, wool)
  • 2 acrylic or wood shapes (same shape)
  • rubber bands
  • bleach
  • hydrogen peroxide or bleach stop

Tutorial

Step 1: Fold your fabric in half end to end. In this case I’m using a black linen scarf with fringe, so the fringe ends will be together. This will ensure that the pattern on the ends of the scarf matches. Then follow the diagram below (just ignore the “sleeves” as the tutorial that this image came from is for a dress).

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This diagram is from Paula Birth’s site – which is an awesome resource for dyers!

Step 2: Apply your resist(s). I applied oval acrylic shapes to both sides of my triangular stack and then I secured it with rubber bands.

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Step 3: There are several options for discharging the color in your fabric and different fabric will accept the discharging agent in various ways. This is were trial and error come into play. This fabric discharged extremely fast! So much so that my first effort resulted in a scarf that was almost completely discharged. 😦 The lovely thing is that you can generally fix a dyeing error. In this case, I refolded my scarf, applied my resists and dyed in it in an indigo vat. And I’m happy to report that it came out beautifully.

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But I digress..I’m using 100% bleach to discharge this scarf. This is mostly because I’m impatient and bleach is one of the strongest discharging agents. I used a very small amount of bleach (given my prior error) and then I placed each side of my triangle in the solution until I liked the color. For this fabric, it was literally a matter of a few minutes. But there have been instances where I have left a scarf in bleach for hours before I achieved the color that I wanted.

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Step 4:  Take your fabric out of the solution and give it a good rinse in cold water. Then you will need to stop the chemical reaction of the bleach by soaking the fabric in hydrogen peroxide or bleach stop (available at Dharma Trading – my “go to” site for supplies). Soak for 5 to 10 minutes.

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Step 5:  Undo your bundle and soak the fabric in the hydrogen peroxide solution for another 15-30 minutes. Then rinse, rinse, rinse until your water runs clear. I always give my garment a wash in Synthrapol at this point (which is a professional textile detergent available through Dharma), but any mild detergent is fine!

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Step 6:  Voila! This is the finished piece. It reminds me of African Kuba cloth. So pretty!

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