My Hand in Natural Fabric Dyes

natural dyes

Given the way that I am, I am always trying and looking for new things to do. For a while now I have been following Folk Fibers on Instagram and on their blog. Maura Ambrose of Folk Fibers is ever so talented and makes beautiful and inspiring quilts.  All of her quilts use fabric that she dyes herself using only natural materials. She then takes this fabric and turns them into works of art with her quilts. I have made a few quilts in the past as well as have sewn countless things, so naturally I became very inspired.

natural dyes

I really wanted to try dyeing fabric with natural materials as well, so after scouring the internet and following some Maura’s own tutorials, I accomplished it and created some really beautiful colors.

The first batch I did was using only yellow onion skins that I collected over the weeks leading up to it. The first batch did not turn out well. It did dye the fabric, but it was so light that it made it look vintage and worn, not yellows and golds that were promised.  I now know that it was because I didn’t have enough onion skins, I didn’t let them boil long enough, and the dye water was too watered down.

natural dyes yellow onion skinsYellow onion skins batch #2 (cotton and linen)

So for the next batch I used red onions skins, did a mordant with alum and let it boil longer, and had more of a concentration of onion skins. The fabric turned a pretty peachy color and I am happy with it!

I then tried the yellow onion skins again and got an orange color ( I think it was due to the mixing of yellow and red onion skins). Im happy with it.

I also tried black beans which turned the fabric this really beautiful blue. In order to dye fabric with black beans, you simple soak a few cups of black beans in water for 24 hours. I chose to mordant my fabric before hand with alum to ensure that the color would stay. After the 24 hour soaking of the beans I carefully ladled the top liquid into another bowl ( has to be big enough for your fabric to fit with room to move around) making sure not to disturb the beans on the bottom. From what I read, having bean particles in your dye will cause it to turn weird colors. I did end up have some beans floating around in my new bowl (the liquid is so dark its hard to see) but it still turned out beautiful.  I then let the fabric soak in the bean liquid for another 24 hours. It turned a really beautiful and warm blue.

natural dyes black beansBlack Beans  (cotton)

To see what happened, I took a piece of dyed fabric from the black beans and did an after-mordant iron bath. I knew that the iron would change the coloring (greys and green) so I wanted to see what the blue would turn into. It turned into this really cool smoky gray color and its awesome too! The way I did this was again using information gained from the internet. I used 1/2 tsp of iron, dissolved it a cup of hot water, added it to a big pot filled with more water. I then added my dyed black bean fabric and brought to a boil for 20 minutes. I then let it cool a bit, drained it outside in the bushes, and rinsed it well.

natural dyes black beans with iron after mordantBlack Bean Fabric with Iron After-mordant (linen)

All my dyed fabric was rinsed well afterwards and hung to dry!

I am very proud of myself for trying this and making it work. Next I will do indigo from a dye kit because I want some darker colors in my quilt.

I learned a lot and cant wait to learn more.

One thing I need to figure out and fix is the unevenness of my dye. Some parts of my fabric look tie dyed which isn’t the look I’m going for. I have a feeling its because I am not giving the fabric enough room to move around in.

Oh and just so you know, I used 100% cotton muslin and 100% linen.

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