Friday, May 25, 2012

Playing with Natural Dyes

I have to admit, I've always been fascinated by the old ways of doing things...spinning, weaving, milk paint, decorating with natural elements, making bread, you get the idea.  I certainly appreciate the fact that I live in the modern world where I can get what I need when I need it with a minimum amount of effort on my part because I'm lazy like that, but I do think it is a shame that our society has lost so much in the way of knowledge of how to do things simply and without a plethora of resources.  We've lost a lot of self-reliance; I venture a guess that most people, finding themselves faced with a major catastrophe, would be hard pressed to feed themselves, much less adorn themselves and make their environment pretty (WHAT?  No Home Goods?  NOOOOOOOO!!!!!).  OK, I suppose in the wake of catastrophe, we might not be worrying about prettying things up, but once the dust settled, you know you'd want to.  Don't misunderstand me, I think about stuff a lot.  THINK.  Usually, that's as far as it goes.  Then, after I think my deep thoughts about sustainability and self-reliance, I hop on the internet, place my order with Dominoes, pour a glass of wine, and wait for someone to bring me food.  The closest I've gotten to growing my own food was to ask my husband (who does actually grow veggies and stuff) to bring in some arugala for the salad. You do know that if you make a salad to go with the delivered pizza, it becomes a healthy nutritious well-balanced meal-just sayin'.  But I digress...

Back to the topic of natural dyes: Mr. FL, in addition to veggies grows lots of beautiful flowers, among them, rather stunning Bearded Iris.  I'd seen on Pinterest a while back a pin about using avocado skins to dye with, supposedly turning fabric and lace a light pink,  and so we'd been having a discussion about that when he says, "I wonder if you could dye with these?"  He handed me a bunch of spent Iris blooms from one of our really dark purple plants.  I decided we should find out right then and there. I gathered up a variety of cotton and linen laces, a doily, and a piece of torn natural muslin and dyed them. Instructions can be found further down the post. I was overjoyed at the results. The color is a bit more accurate on the first two photos, but as you can see, it turned out a very nice lavender purple.  The content of the fabric you are dying affects how the pieces take the dye, just like with any other dye, so you can get lots of variation from piece to piece even if you dye everything at the same time. Makes it rather interesting I think. Is it color-fast?  I don't know.  The water ran clear pretty quick after I took them out of the dye pot and rinsed them, but since I plan on using these things for art journals and things that won't be washed, I've not taken that next step in the research.  Perhaps another day for that, oui? 

There are several books out that discuss all of the myriad of plant materials (and even bugs) that have been used for centuries to dye fiber.  I don't have one, but perhaps I should add one to my library-like I need one more "thing" to get into...sigh.  Many plant materials make a very different color to dye with than they actually are.  Like the avocado skins (more on that later in the post).

Anyway, this is a crappy picture of the Iris I used.  It is called Superstition.  If you've ever grown Iris, you know that the petals are very wet so I had an inkling that the juice from them might make a good dye having had spent heads land on  my white counter and make a nice deep stain.  The flowers are much lovelier than my photo, but you get the idea.

Here's what my hand looked like when I went out to the garden and removed additional spent heads from the plant.  Kind of like blueberry stains.  You can see the spent heads underneath-not so pretty.

There's probably loads of versions of how to dye with natural materials available, but this is what I did.

I used 6 or 8 flowers heads.  I pulled out a stainless steel pot, added some water-maybe 2 cups-ish, and about a half a cup of white vinegar and boiled it.  I then added the Iris blossoms after cutting the green stem pieces off, and boiled them for about a half an hour.  I strained the blooms out and returned the liquid to the pot. Then, I put in my WET laces and fabric and simmered them in the pot for about 30 minutes. If you want less color, do less time, more color, do more time. It will dry a little lighter than the way it looks when you first pull it out of the pot, but not too much. Rinse it in cold water until the water runs clear and then hang or lay out to dry.  It will retain a slight vinegary smell which will dissipate, but if you want to take it to the next level and try washing it, that will of course, go away. Make sure you wash it by itself just in case the color "goes away" too-you wouldn't want to send your hubs off to work in a purple tie dyed dress shirt, right?   After my fabrics dried, I ironed them since a lot of things can be "heat set" by using the higher settings on the iron.  Not sure if this was necessary, but I did it anyway.  The above process obviously didn't yield a bunch of dye, but since I was just experimenting, I didn't need a lot.

After having the success with the Iris blooms, I decided to pull out those avocado skins I'd been saving in the freezer and do the same thing with them.  In my case, I found that simmering the fabric for 30 minutes produced a very pale tan color, not too exciting.  I returned them to the simmering pot, got it boiling for just a bit, then covered the pot with a lid and turned the heat off.  I left them in the pot all day and was very pleased with the results-definitely a pinkish cast to them, not quite as pink as the pins I'd seen, but very pleasing. Who'd a thunk it? Dark green avocado skins dye stuff pinky tan.  Like I said before, some things are kind of weird and interesting like that.

I had to go to my real job after shooting the above photos, but check back tomorrow for an update to this post to see what happened when I threw the spent petals from these vibrant roses in my little dye pot...I was quite pleased...If you should want to try this, do use a stainless steel pot so nothing leaches in to or out of the pot and if you are really going to get into the dying process, you should probably go to a thrift store and purchase a designated dye pot that you don't use for your food.

I should take an additional moment to mention my friend Debra over at Common Ground.  She featured me and my little blog today on her Vintage Inspiration Friday post and I was just gobsmacked!  What a sweetheart she is and I was just on cloud 9 all day after reading it.  Do stop over and visit her and her wonderful linky party which she faithfully hosts every week in addition to a great Monday Marketplace linky party where you can showcase your wares from your personal Etsy shops, websites, etc.  It is truly a wonderful group of participants each and every week for both of those parties.  Then, there's Debra's great style in her own home which she blogs about and I drool over...  Thank you, Debra for supporting me with your kind words and friendship over the last few years.  Love ya girl!

As promised, here is how my vat of rose petals dyed the laces and a little scrap piece of cream colored silk...

I was very happy with the results.  I really didn't have high hopes, but it turned out very nifty.

Since you were kind enough to hang in there this long, I will leave you with some of my favorite old roses from our garden.  Enjoy your long weekend!

Until next time,

Linking up with:
Time Travel Thursday
Creative Things Thursday
Vintage Inspiration Friday
Feathered Nest Friday
Shabbylicious Friday
Simple and Sweet Friday 
Pink Saturday

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  1. Love the tutorial on dying, I think I'm going to try a few flowers myself and see what I come up with.

  2. Thank you for sharing this I must try it. :)

  3. You made me laugh about dialling for a pizza and having a wine. LOL
    Anyhow I love the dye experiement. A very pretty shade of violet/mauve...whatever, it's subtle and lovely. I like mucking around and trying different things too. Once as a joke when I brushed my black scottish terrier I hand spun the hair into a loose yarn and then crocheted a little centre about 5 cm in diameter...funny at the time. Was just funning!!

  4. Lovely pictures and interesting reading. Dying is very fun and I also have black iris. Have a great day.


  5. ...hello dear Judy!
    i too love working with natural dyes as it is truly a mystery and you just never know how they will turn out ~ lol!!
    your iris ribbons are just lovely (as was that iris!) check out dreamy whites egg dying post, i've tried some of the fruits and veggies on fabrics/lace/ribbons and what a menagerie of colors, each one unique and oh-so-lovley.

    happy creating and j'adore the annie sloan shelf (are you hooked on her paint yet?!?! ~ you WILL be!!!)

    xo, Rosemary

  6. oh! i almost forgot ~
    using fruits and veggies to dye on fabrics, will fade with natural light after awhile, to help set my color, i put salt in my rinse bath:)


  7. Those came out just beautiful!! Thank you for sharing them with us!!

  8. I adore vintage lace, and your collection is just amazing! Love how you are experimenting with the natural dyes. A big congrats for your feature over at Common Ground! I am drooling over your gorgeous slipcovered couch she featured. Would you mind telling me where you found the slipcover? We just moved back home to MI, and I want to do some redecorating (well, after cleaning up our home that the renter totally trashed!).

  9. Judy, you are genius! Of course I had to chuckle (much) at the beginning of your post. I am lazy like that, too, but often pine to know more self-reliant tricks. I absolutely adore this lavender color from your irises. Can't wait to see how the roses dyed things.
    Big congratulations to you over at Debra's common ground feature - well deserved my friend! You are such an inspiration to many of us, and we always leave smiling from your humor. :)

  10. Absolutely love the muted shades achieved with the natural dye! I am going to have to try this...eventually!! Too many other things going on to fit this in right now, but it is a fabulous idea. I saw the natural Easter egg coloring people did, and loved that as well!

    Hope your holiday weekend is amazing!!

  11. Have never thought of dying this way--it turned out beautiful!

  12. The subtlety of the shades of color is what I'm most amazed with. Now, how will you use them? but then again, just so pretty to look at! I'm also amazed that your husband is the gardener. I think that's a wonderful trait in a man. Judy, thank you so much for the sweet words, believe me, it was MY pleasure! And yes, having a salad and wine with a delivery pizza does elevate it to a much higher level of culinary delight! xoxo

  13. As always great visuals... I too am intrigued by Natural Dyes and have been experimenting with some... the shades are so Organic and subdued, Love it.

    Blessings from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

  14. I had never thought about dyeing this way, but now I'm eager to try some of my own. Thank you for the instructions.

    I especially like how the lace dyed from the deep pink rose petals turned out. Love that subtle shade of pink.

  15. What an incredible way to dye this way. Those are the most loveliest shades I have ever seen.

  16. I have only tea and coffee dyed stuff, but the rose dye turned out really nice, and I like the iris dye as well.

  17. Your photos are beautiful Judy ~ I want to try this myself...sounds like a great rainy day project!

  18. Judy, What a creative way to use natural materials to dye with. I have always wanted to try this method and seeing what you have done is very inspirational.
    I love the color of the finished fabrics and how they look so vintage and aged, perfect! Thanks for sharing on Simple & Sweet Fridays. I'm sure everyone loved your project. I think Debra from Common Ground is the best too! Her blog and motivating words have inspired us all. Thanks again for this wonderful idea, can't wait to try it!


  19. Your homemade dyes worked beautifully on the lace, Judy. And you are so right; we have become too reliant on ease and convenience, instead of more self-sufficient. I made some dyes from vegetables earlier this spring and used them to dye eggs. There's a link in my sidebar. ;)

    Thanks for linking to Time Travel Thursday again.

    Liz @ The Brambleberry Cottage

  20. Thank you Judy for linking up to Shabbilcious Friday.

    I love the idea of using natural dyes and I'm for sure going to give this a try. I have featured you at today's Shabbilcious Friday party.

    Hugs ~ Kerryanne

  21. Durn, my irises are long gone for the year, or I'd be doing that one! I do use avacados for pink, but do it differently than you do. I boil a couple of skins, let the water sit over night and then dip the fabric. I get a great tan/pink that reminds me of vintage lingerie.

  22. You have inspired me to try this.Your lace looks amazing using flower dyes.

  23. Judy, thanks for the beautiful post using Iris. I had also seen the Avocado dye post one Pink Saturday a while back. I used it on cream colored burlap. I made two different batches and discovered that all avocados are not created equal in the dye department. One batch produced a soft pink that had a hint of coral while the other attempt was a true pink that I really liked. Wish I had Iris blooming, but they are early spring bloomers here in central Texas. And I agree 100% that home-grown salad coupled with take-out pizza covers all the food groups. Have a Pink Week.

  24. Judy your dyed experiments came out beautifully! I most definitely will have to try this method.



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