Thursday, February 24, 2011

in the dye-pot

I've been saving onion skins to make a dye bath for a while now and have a quart jarful.

 
My instructions (The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes by Sasha Duerr) say 4 ounces are needed to mix up a concentration strong enough to dye 4 ounces of fiber.  

 
 I have a way to go.

In the meantime, I thought I'd give coffee-dyeing a whirl with this white cotton top that I wear only about once a year -- so it seemed like fair game.

It soaked in cool water with 1/2 teaspoon of alum added to act as a mordant.

 To make the coffee dye bath, I used dark espresso whole beans and also some finely-ground espresso with boiling water added to fill a 1/2 gallon jar. The coffee then infused in a dark cupboard for two weeks. I forgot to strain it before I poured it on the white top but it didn't seem to matter. I was actually hoping for a speckled effect once I saw how pretty it looked. At this point, it was heated to 180 degrees and then left at room temperature for almost two days. Was hoping it would reach a dark brown.

It never made it, but it's OK because I sort of like the softness of this latte color. May as well experiment with a different plant dye on this same top at some point. Maybe the coffee dye will serve sort of like paint primer and the next color will cover really well.

Has anyone achieved a rich, dark brown and what plant material did you use?

10 comments:

helen said...

First, what is the material the top is made out of? 100% cotton (or silk) takes best. The coffee has to be extremely strong, and I would try heating it with the top in it, for a while.I have achieved very dark with walnuts (but they stink) Strong Tea can sometimes achieve a better color than coffee in my experiments.I'm sure someone else has better advice. :)

woman with wings said...

Helen, it's 100% cotton -- the dye bath was very dark & strong and I heated it to 180 with the top in it and then let sit at room temp for a few days afterwards. I may try walnuts, if they stink I can do it outside on a hot plate -- thanks for the tip!

deanna7trees said...

i did a dye bath with black walnuts awhile ago and different fibers gave different shades of brown. i only had a few walnuts in their husks that a friend brought me from pennsylvania. we don't have them here in austin, tx. here's the link if you want to see the results:
http://eclectic-meanderings.blogspot.com/2011/01/black-walnut-dye-and-more.html
the darkest brown are color catcher sheets that you throw into the washing machine. i'm trying to create fabric that looks like leather and they come close.

woman with wings said...

Deanna, I just looked, it looks very successful -- what a lovely brown. I'm not familiar with color catcher sheets, afraid my ignorance is showing, so I'll have to go look that up!! Thanks for sharing this.

Notjustnat said...

Interesting dyeing with coffee. I did dyed with walnut husks too. The liquid was very dark, but when I wash the silk I used it turned out lighter than the liquid. Thanks for the tip on onion skins and vinegar concoction too. I just got India's book out again to have another look - Hugs Nat

Marie said...

The results of coffee dying are my favorite.
I love the mellow, rich, soft color.

woman with wings said...

Nat -- I'm definitely going to use walnuts sometime, it sounds like they're worth the smell!

woman with wings said...

Marie, I like this color but I am wondering why it didn't go darker, maybe because it's cotton? I pretty much love everything about coffee. To drink and to dye with!

Kim said...

Love your site.... yep, black walnuts are just the thing. Use the green hulls and the color will be rich and dark and never fade. Great stuff!

woman with wings said...

Kim, thank you! Walnuts it is, for a "new" dark brown top!