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Dyeing Fabric

Updated: Dec 27, 2019

I decided to go through my older work and start weeding out. 3 pieces I took apart for reuse (most of what I do is upcycling). Other articles that I still like will go on my website on sale. Some, mostly playing with techniques, I hung around my house and photographed for this blog.

The following piece is experimenting with dying different fabrics. I used commercial dyes for this. The dye pot is the same for all the materials, though they come out distinct it is all cohesive. I don’t remember how long I left the pieces in the bath, I think they were all different lengths of time and I took them out when I thought that was going to be as good as it gets. I like things to match. Some fabrics don’t take dye at all, like the white laces.


The background pink is muslin & it took up the color too well. It’s too dark a pink for me. I love the purple & aqua. I like layering and finding coordinating material. I was into 3 piece sets. I was new to grommeting, I still feel like I don’t grommet well, and so the piece did not come out straight. I am the queen of crooked but this is even too much for me! I used binder rings to hold them together (I had seen the idea somewhere). All in all I like it but it’s not ‘art’ worthy. It’s hanging in my bathroom because there was an empty space.


This gold piece is more recent. I took a class in natural dyes, this is yellow onion skins. We dyed different fabrics and used different mordants (see below for definition). The background & pin were not part of the class, it was me collaging the works together.

I have used natural dyes before, including onion skins, red & yellow. I also used avocado skins which gives a subtle dusty rose, which is so my aesthetic. I also heard you can use the pit. I don’t really eat avocado, sorry, to me it’s tasteless, so I don’t usually have skins & pits available. I don’t wash my pieces so they don’t fade but you must be careful of mordant if you need to wash it.

I have experimented with using different kinds of tea (black, green, chai, etc) for dyeing but I thought they all pretty much looked the same. I love the tan color, it looks aged.

I read an article that goldenrod could be used for dyeing and it was in bloom, so as soon as I finished my coffee (which I sometimes use to dye), I went to the garden. I didn’t have a mordant and I wanted to do it so I just boiled the flowers and threw in material and it was a barely visible yellow. I guess I could have left it in longer but, as usual, I was in a hurry!

Mordant: A fixative that allows dye molecules to bind to fiber. From the Latin word mordere, meaning to bite, a mordant is a chemical compound that can brighten a dye color, darken it, or make it colorfast. Using a mordant in the correct quantity and with the appropriate fiber can coax out a plant dye’s full color spectrum and can extend lightfastness. Plant-based fibers, such as cotton, linen, and hemp, often benefit from premordanting with tannin and alum to achieve successful results. Iron is also a mordant

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