This week I have been spending a good deal of time in the kitchen, cooking up natural dyes. I am actually surprised that after 7 years of art in college I had never learned to make paints, toxic or non toxic. But after reading Autumn’s post about how to make your own milk paint, I got to thinking even deeper into how to make pigments since the colored pigment can be as toxic as the binder. What I found out was a creative revelation that I can not stop cooking up! My personal criteria for creating pigment/dye is this:
- It cannot be toxic in any way, even if the substance is natural.
- It has to be in abundance and easily gathered in nature (don’t ever take so much that the plant can’t survive or make seeds.)
I totally hit the jack pot when I walked outside to find that my landlady next door has a plum tree with a gazillion plums that had already fallen to the ground and were being eaten by bugs, rotting, fermenting, gushy etc…
Editor’s Note: The plums here are red plums – the kind with bright pink flesh (as you can see in the photos below). You will not get the same bright pink color from other varieties of plum, so make sure the ones you use are red!
The natural organic dye experiment begins…
I began by skinning the plums and using only the dark burgundy red skins – I left the fruit for the wild critters, and kept the seeds and planted them – in hopes to grow some of my own plum trees.
I used salt as a dye fixative, since I was using fruit for dye but if you are making your dye from flowers, leaves, plants etc – then it is suggested to use vinegar.
The recipe I found was this:
- SALT FIX: 1/2 CUP SALT TO 8 CUPS COLD WATER
- VINEGAR FIX: 4 PARTS COLD WATER TO 1 PART VINEGAR
How to Make Natural Fabric Dye in Hot Pink
- Cooking pot ( a spare that you don’t use for cooking food)
- Measure cup
- White, off white or light colored natural fabric (linen, organic cotton, wool and silk are best)
- enough red plum skins to cover your fabric in the pot
1. Simmer your fabric in the salt fixative for approx. 1 hour (see above), then rinse and ring it out before putting the fabric in the dye.
2. Once the fabric has the fix in it, dump the plum skins in some fresh water and simmer those for another hour. It is so amazing how red and beautiful the water turns within minutes of light warm simmer! Even though these are long stretches of time, you do not have to loom over the cooking process those few hours, you can cruise the Internet and read Crafting A Green World posts while your dye is brewing.
3. Strain out the skins and return the dye to the pot. Then start dipping the locally woven organic cotton into the plum dye! How freakin’ awesome, cause it started turning almost hot pink right away and stuck right to the fabric.
4. Let the fabric simmer lightly in the dye for a richer color for about an hour, all steamy, hot and sooooo pretty!
5. Allow the fabric to sit in the dye overnight to make sure it has the darkest outcome possible since when it is rinsed and dried the color will be alot lighter.
6. Rinse your fabric until the water runs clear, then hang it to dry.
Isn’t it pretty in pink ?!? (Almost as pretty as Molly Ringwald but I like my naturally dyed fabric even better then her prom dress!) All that from a couple discarded plums, Yay! It’s really easier then it looks and the whole process was totally relaxing and fun- not to mention I felt like I was part scientist, part witch! There are fantastic lists of natural stuff you can use for dye in just about every cool shade of color you can imagine. Go to Pioneer Thinking for a complete list of plants, berries, nuts and bark that can make a rainbow of fun, safe colors. For even more pigments a simple google search for “make your own natural dye” turns up plenty a colorful brew waiting for you to experiment with.
Have you ever tried a natural or non toxic dying process? What has been your experience?