While there are many things that can be done with herbs in winter, I look forward to the lull in foraging to do arts and crafts. One area I’m exploring is natural dyes. While I can’t afford at this point to buy all locally produced organic textiles, I can try to get familiar with the dye process, and hope one day to produce more of my own clothing. Upcycling is fun, but I still have to wonder about how the fabrics and dyes impact the environment where they are produced; in fact, I know much of the clothing we wear is toxic and environmentally unfriendly and in many cases produced by slave labor. You can read more about that if you’re interested, here.
Now the fun part; home fabric dyeing. I decided to use Hibiscus as an experiment to see how it would dye while making some Hibiscus tea, so these linen/cotton bits were dyed with the second brewing; there was so much life left in the tea, and it was so pretty I couldn’t resist. They may have come out darker if I had used the first brewing. Also, I decided to see how the tea would brew on its own and didn’t mordant the fabric before dying.
Another thing I forgot to do was to check the ph level of the solution, so the next time I might do that and pre-mordant and see if that increases the color absorption. For most dyes, you want a neutral ph of about 7. “Mordant” is a French word that means “biting”. A mordant helps bind the pigments to the fabric. I’m pretty happy with samples from the vinegar bath and the salt bath. The straight solution came out a bit lighter than it looks here, but still useable, whereas the one that had washing soda added didn’t take much color at all! Although Hibiscus is full of vitamin C, which I would have guessed to be somewhat acidic, the acidic addition is the one that came out darker, so I will have to find the ph sticks for my next try.
My next try will be a local herb, Red Alder. Let me know if you’d like to see another dye post for the results!