Saturday, February 27, 2010

Natural fabric dye from the fridge

Until the other night, I had never used fruit to color stain/dye fabric - at least not by intention. Just after 1am I had nearly finished up 3 new dresses. I was really tired but decided to go ahead and heat seat by iron (not my typical ink setting method) the block printed patches on each one. Each dress was made of the same white-white linen fabric. I turned on some late night t.v. and did the ironing in our den, with dim lighting. Then, I walked into another room carrying my three finished garments feeling pleased with myself and ready for bed. I was horrified to see, now in brighter light, that my ironing had left large circular beige-ish burn spots, at least 6" in diameter, on each dress I'm not used to working with white-white and this was not my usual linen.

After a short-lived pity party, I decided to dye two of the dresses and give them to my daughters. The tea-stain worked well as expected, as I've done this several times now. No sign of any spot on that one. I looked in the frig and opted to give blueberries a try for the other. Glad I did. Only about 2-3 minutes in the dye bath resulted in a lovely lavender with a hint of grey that was a hit with both girls.

My method: Combine approx. 1 cup mashed blueberries with 8 cups water. Bring to a boil. Simmer 10-15 minutes. Strain to remove skins and other undesirables. Submerge pre-washed, wet fabric in the dye bath - for only a few minutes in this case. Rinse well in cold water and set color with vinegar.

I don't know if vinegar is an effective way to set berry dye for the long term, but the dress has already been washed once and seems to have retained its color. No bleed onto the tea-stained dress in the same load either. I'm wondering about preparing a mordant bath (salt-based maybe?) to "prepare" the fabric to accept the dye. Maybe this would help set the color as well. Just something to consider down the line. For the time being I'm not so interested in dyeing my fabrics. I've got some tea-stained fabric from earlier projects that I am using up now for pencil/craft rolls, but no current dye plans for Spool + Sparrow goods. My daughters, however, are eager to begin more experimentation with a variety of plants and foods. They eat up this sort of project!

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