Natural dyes recipes

On our big dyeing day we tested cotton poplin and silk satin and organza and a multitude of different natural dyes. Indeed the different fibres and weaves absorbed the different dyes in different ways. The onion skins and madder created deep shades of olive green and red but most of the other dyes were better absorbed by the silk. The satin also has this lovely luxurious lustre to it that would be most suitable for the superspecial occasion dress we’re designing…

While we semi-improvised, due to the lack of a cooking thermometer, our small fabric quantities and the lack of precision scales, we did try to follow the recipes at least a bit. It is important to read the recipes carefully beforehand: the fibres need soaking in luke-warm water before it is processed further. And some need mordanting (which can also take up to an hour), while others may need to left seep in the dye over night. Some are really quick & easy though! We chose alum and iron mordants as they are eco-friendly. Here are the dyes we tested:

Basic Alum Mordant with Silk

4 oz / 113g of fibre

1.5 tsp of alum

1.5 tsp cream of tartar

Weigh the dry fibre and record the weight. Soak silk in water for min. 1 h (or overnight). Put alum and cream of tartar in a cup, add some hot water, stir to dissolve. Add mordant mixture to a bucket of lukewarm water and dissolve. Put silk in mordant bath, move it around and leave it to soak overnight. Wash with pH-neutral soap, rinse and dry.

Basic Iron Mordant with Animal Fibre

4 oz / 113g of fibre

1/2 tsp iron powder

Wearing a dust mask is recommended. Weigh the dry fibre and record the weight. Soak silk in water for min. 1 h (or overnight). Fill a large stainless steel pot with enough water to cover the fibre with plenty of room. Heat water to simmer (or 82 degrees Celsius). Put iron powder in a cup, add hot water and dissolve. Add to simmering water and stir. Turn off the heat and let the water cool down. Remove the fibre from the water and add to dye pot. Heat mordant bath to simmer and put lid on. Occasionally stir, simmer for 15-20 mins. Remove dye pot from heat and allow fibre to cool. Wash with pH-neutral soap, rinse and dry.

Alum Mordant with Animal Fibres

1.75 tsp per 100g of fibre

1.5 tsp per 100g of fibres

Weigh dry fibre and soak for 1-2 hours in water. Squeeze out water before placing in mordant bath. 18L of water per 500g of fibres needed. Dissolve cream of tartar and alum in a cup, the place mixture into water. Dissolve and simmer with fibres for 1h. Stir occasionally and make sure fibres are below the water surface, place plate into pot if necessary to keep fibre under water. Leave fibres to cool in liquid for min. 2 hrs or overnight.

If mordanting silk: do not simmer for 1h but soak in the boiled water for 24hrs.

Onionskin Dye

1:1 weight of onion skins to fibre (we mixed red & white onion)

Soak fibre in water for min. 1h.

Mordant silk or cotton with alum or iron (this will influence the end result colour).

Bring dye pot to boil and simmer the onion skins for 10-15 mins or until the water is a deep colour and the onion skins have gone clear. Scoop the skins for the dye bath with a strainer, add fibre to the dye bath and simmer again for 10 mins or until desired colour is reached. Fabric can be left overnight for a darker shade. Wash fibre with pH-neutral soap, rinse and dry.

Red Cabbage Dye

Salt can be added for more blue shades and lemon juice for pink colours. We did a batch of just cabbage and one with added lemon.

1:1 weight of cabbage to fibre

lemon juice or vinegar or salt (optional)

Soak fibre in water for min. 1h.

Use alum mordant for cotton or linen.

Cut cabbage into 2 inch chunks. Bring pot of water so simmer and place cabbage in pot, simmer for 20 mins or until the cabbage leaves loose their colour. Add fibre and simmer for 20-30 mins. Add salt or acid, simmer until desired shade is achieved (or overnight). Wash fibre with pH-neutral soap, rinse and dry.

Coffee Dye

No mordant necessary although a mordant can improve wash & light fastness and the deepness of the colour. No strict quantities; we had 1:1 fibre to coffee here to achieve golden-beige shades.

Soak fibre in water for min. 1h.

Heat water to simmering point and add fibre. Simmer 15-20 mins. Turn off heat and let it seep until desired shade is achieved (or overnight). Wash fibre with pH-neutral soap, rinse and dry.

Tea Dye

No mordant necessary although a mordant can improve wash & light fastness and the deepness of the colour. No strict quantities; we had a whole 1L measuring jug full of tea which achieved very deep ruddy-brown tones (beautiful).

Soak fibre in water for min. 1h.

Heat water to simmering point and add fibre. Simmer 15-20 mins. Turn off heat and let it seep until desired shade is achieved (or overnight). Wash fibre with pH-neutral soap, rinse and dry.

Elderberry Dye

1:1 weight of berries to fibre

Alum pre-mordanted animal fibre.

Soak fibre in water for min. 1h.

Crush elderberries with pestle and mortar, add to water, bring to boil and simmer 15 mins. Add fibre, simmer for 1h, seep overnight. Wash fibre with pH-neutral soap, rinse and dry.

Mint Dye

1:1 weight of leaves to fibre

Iron mordanted fibre.

Soak fibre in water for min. 1h.

Place leaves into dye pot of hot water and soak for 20 mins, strain and soak fibre for min. 1h or overnight. Creates yellow.

Madder Dye

This is one of the most traditional dyes and creates shade of red and pink, achieved through different mordants: either no mordant, alum, iron or alum + iron. The colour also depends on the length of the bath.

Soak fibre in water for min. 1h.

1:1 weight of root to fibre

Simmer madder and wetted fibres for 40 mins, turn off heat and seep overnight. To test different colour simmer unmordanted fibre to 20-40 mins for a red-salmon shade. The second batch can be added to the same dye bath for a red-pink and the third batch will achieve peachy colours. Set all aside to seep overnight.

Anja

4 thoughts on “Natural dyes recipes

  1. Pingback: Colorization | itwillbethedress

  2. Pingback: Natural Dyeing « MA Fashion and the Environment : a journey

  3. Hi! Ever tested these on shoes? I want to darken peach satin shoes to coral. Think I can achieve that with these techinques? Thanks!

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