Playing with Color

Before and After Photo Credit Kandy Christensen
I had a strip of vintage french ticking and some cotton calico that I picked up from a thrift store that wasn't very exciting. So I decided to dye the fabric. I will admit I have dabbled in dyeing fabric before and I typically pick fabrics to dye that I wouldn't be devastated if they turned out, well, not right. 

This is not the definitive 'how to' for dyeing fabric. Rather it is a guide to get you started and to give yourself permission to play with it and not be intimidated by the process. 

What you will need:
Fabric to dye
Vegetable, spice, coffee or tea to dye with
A pot large enough for the fabric to be covered by water
White vinegar

The first step is to get your fabric thoroughly wet. Keep in mind that natural textiles work best like cotton, linen or wool. Synthetic fabrics don't absorb the colors very well, if at all. 

Gather up your ingredients. Today I was using turmeric for color and white vinegar and a bit of salt to help set the dye.

I wanted to make sure I had enough water to cover the fabric. For this batch I boiled twelve cups of water, added 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 2 teaspoons of turmeric and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt. I bought a vintage enamel pot to use specifically for this purpose, but really any pot large enough for the fabric to be covered thoroughly will do. We are using household goods and not any chemicals.

Whisk the water, vinegar, turmeric and salt together and then add your fabrics. Please note that this will dye everything it touches including my skin and my table. Not that I dyed anything on accident-ok fine the next day I realized my fingers were a little yellow and I managed to get a drop on my table. I used tongs to make sure the fabric was saturated with the dyed water. Make sure that all of the fabric is under water. I sometimes use another pot or pot lids to keep the fabric under water (it likes to float). 

After about an hour mix everything up. Sometimes there are folds in the fabric or parts that aren't coated in the dye. Stir and make sure that folds are shifted. I think next time I would lay the fabric flat, fold it over and lay it flat over on itself. Bunching it up like this can leave a couple of spots not dyed as thoroughly. Since I was going to cut it up to make a quilted pillow top having to cut around a couple of spots did not ruin my project.

Let the fabric rest for a couple of hours. Give it a very thorough rinse and then run it through the washer and dryer. After that first wash the fabric should be set, but I would suggest being careful for the first couple of rounds in the wash cycle. As I mentioned the turmeric stains.

There are tons of different things you can use to dye fabric. Cook up some red onions which give a green color or purple cabbage which turns into blue. I've used coffee grounds to give some lace an aged look. If you are using vegi's you will want to cook them down and use the water you cooked them in, but strain the vegetables before adding the fabric. I've also dyed Easter eggs using what I found in the fridge. 

Originally published 3/4/13

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