natural dyeing

my friend C and i decided to dye fabric with natural ingredients for our chemistry final and it was an extremely fulfilling and rewarding experience. with help from the book the modern natural dyer by kristine vejar and maiwa handprints blog, we dyed cellulose-based fibres (100% linen and cotton) using natural dyestuff like avocados, turmeric, and tea, as well as with indigo.

we already did a large lab write up on our experiments, so i’ll just do a brief overview and reflection here. the difference between the natural dyeing versus the indigo dyeing is that with the indigo, we used a vat rather than a pot, and the preparation of the dye bath varied greatly. i really enjoyed both processes – the natural dyeing required a bit more patience, but both produced pretty colours. it was nice to do this in the chemistry room because we already had access to many of the chemicals we needed, and didn’t have to source our own. we were able to make aluminum acetate (for the mordant) out of potassium aluminum sulfate and calcium acetate, and only had to buy indigo powder and thiourea dioxide, which was nice since we weren’t sure if we liked natural dyeing yet.

C isn’t into sewing like i am, so i got to keep all the fabric, which i am very excited about! some of the colours were disappointing – if you look below, the fabric dyed by cabbage and beets washed out completely, which was kind of annoying. as mentioned in our lab report, the low water fastness was probably due to a lack of tannins in the dye bath, since foods rich in tannins (avocado, tea, turmeric) resulted in brighter colours. the iron water, which drastically alters tannin rich dyes, also helps with colour fastness, and i’m drooling over the dreamy dark gray of the tea and iron combination.

with my new knowledge in mind, i’ve already been collecting avocado pits and peels in my freezer and i’m just waiting to find the right chunk of time to try dyeing again! i also have to convince my mom to let me “ruin” some more of our cooking pots, or find some of my own. but first, and most excitingly, i get to make projects using the fabric i already have! there’s something about sewing with high quality fabric that you dyed yourself that’s a little more magical than using store-bought fabric…

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