Natural Dye Samples

rainbow dyed playsilks.jpg

I'm teaching a Nature Art class once a week at a local elementary school. Our 8 week class is culminating in dyeing playsilks with natural dyes. I dyed up some samples so the kids can see what's possible. I'm not including indigo in this class so I don't have any blues or bright greens but I'm sure the kids will find a color they like from these options!

naturally dyed silk.jpg

Fabric was mordanted in alum (8% of fabric weight) and cream of tartar (7%) before dyeing. The large piece in the center was dyed with black walnut. The smaller ones, clockwise from left were dyed with cochineal (x2), madder root (x2), onion skins and queen anne's lace flowers.

testing natural dyes

I put each piece of fabric in a small jelly jar with the dye matter directly on it. I simmered them in a larger pot of water for an hour or until the color reached the desired shade.

siklk dyed with cochineal.jpg

These were dyed with cochineal at two different strengths. I didn't measure but added just a tiny sprinkle to the jar with the fabric on the left and a little pinch to the one on the right. Cochineal is very strong and it doesn't take a lot to create rich colors. The speckles on the fabric are there because I didn't strain the cochineal out before adding the fabric.

silk dyed with madder

It's interesting that the madder-dyed silk was also in the dyebath with ground madder root but didn't get any speckling like the cochineal. The more peachy-orange on the left had a little ammonia added to the dye-bath to shift the pH.

queen anne's lace and opin skin dye.jpg

The silk on the left was dyed with onion skins and I really love the resulting golden color. I didn't weigh the fabric or onion skins but my estimate is that the ratio is about 1:2, onion skins to fabric. The lemon yellow is from queen anne's lace with just a pinch of soda ash to really bring out the yellow. I estimate that I used a ratio of flowers to fabric of 2:1. The little scrap of olive green was a piece I cut off of the queen anne's lace fabric and dipped in iron water.

black walnut dye on silk.jpg

This silk was simmered with several whole back walnuts then left to soak in the walnut water for over a day. it's a rich brown with beautiful darker markings where the fabric was touching the walnuts.

I love the way these colors look together and can't wait to see which colors my students choose for their fabric!