I have done a lot of dying in the past. The dyes would get all over my hands and I'd have blue fingers for days! The powdered dye was just as bad. If you weren't careful, you'd be inhaling the stuff. I figured that there has to be a better way, couldn't we dye things with nature? That question resulted in this experiment.
Step 1: Keeping Things Natural
Most dying processes require you to boil the fabric for a while in the dye. Rather than waste energy on that, we can harness the sun's energy to heat the water up. Ever left a glass outside and suddenly it's hot? That's exactly what you are going to do!
To get started this is what you will need:
Mason jars with screw top
Fabric for dying (cotton works best)
And that's it.
Step 2: Colour Fixer -Mordant
You can experiment with this one. Typically a mordant is added before you attempt to dye. A mordant allows the fibres to absorb the dyes better than with out. It is up to you if you want to try it or not. Without a mordant the colours are muted.
To make a mordant all you need is: vinegar (2 cups), salt (1/2 cup) per gallon water.
Place everything in a bucket or jar (including the fabric) and stick it in the sun for a few hours.
Step 3: Prep Your Materials
With your Mason jars you'll want to start collection fresh natural materials that could be used to dye. The key here is that the materials need to be fresh otherwise the colours will not come out. Anything really can be used, and sometimes what you use will surprise you.
Here's some ideas to get you started:
Yellow - onions (including red ones), dandelion heads
Green - dandelion leaves, grass
Brown - tea, coffee grounds, plant roots
Red - berries, hibiscus flowers
For this I am using black tea.
Step 4: Putting It Together
Take your wet fabric and stuff it into the Mason jar followed by your plant material you collected for dying. Screw on the lid tight and let it sit in a sunny location.
Step 5: And Wait
You can leave your fabric in for days, weeks or even months. The longer you leave the fabric in the jar, the richer the colour. You can agitate the jar every so often to ensure that the colour goes through, but you could also get a neat tie dye effect if you don't.
Try not to open up the jars. The rotting plant material can smell funky.
Step 6: Take Out and Rinse
Once you are satisfied with the colour, take the garment out and rinse well with water. Some of the colour may come out and that's ok.
For this one, coffee was used on 100% polyester. You can see that there is a notable colour difference.
*I tried to show a green dyed garment but I didn't have enough plant material (grass) and thus the colour will take a while to come out. More needs to be added.
Step 7: Enjoy!
When washing your garment use cool water with a light detergent.
You can experiment with how long you keep your garment sealed. The longer it stays in the jars, the richer colour.
Have fun with it!