TEA GARDEN: Camomile and calendula. Cleared a 15’x7’ (approx 5x2m) area of weeds, add new soil and compost. Scorch the ground with a blow torch to keep away any crab grass seeds. Mixed the seeds with soil, scatter them, water and waited.
It takes trial and error to determine which plants produce which colors. In the beginning, stick to what's in your garden and avoid anything toxic.
Japanese indigo, and coreopsis (which produces an orange dye). Even the leaves of a fennel plant can be used to produce a sort of olive green. During summer, look for blue elderberry, for its purplish blues, and tickseed sunflower for its bright orange hue. The black walnuts and sumac you find in fall will give you varying shades of brown, and pokeberry (or pokeweed) gives you a deep red that will remind you of fall foliage.
BASIC NATURAL DYEING PROCEDURE
First Step: Prepare your fabric by soaking it in a mordant. A mordant combines with the natural dye to help fix it to the fabric.
Popular mordants include alum (a type of aluminum), vinegar (not a true mordant), iron batch (iron nails/water/vinegar). Rhubarb leaves and aluminum or iron pots filled with water also serve as mordants. A meta-mordant can also be used, that is, applying the mordant directly to the dye vat. The resulting color may be vary.
Note: Mordants can deepen a hue or give a richer, more vibrant color to the fabric. You can alter the color by using variations of washes after the dyeing also.
1 : Add 2-3 tablespoons of alum to a pot of boiling water. The amount of alum to use is approximately 25% of the weight of your fabric. The pot should be large enough to accommodate your fabric. Stir to dissolve.
2 : Submerge your fabric. Resume heat to a low simmer for about an hour. Stir occasionally.
3 :Remove the fabric from the pot. Dispose of remaining mordant liquid.
Second Step: Prepare the dye bath.
Recipes for making dye baths vary, depending on flowers or plants you use, as does the soaking time.
Extracting Pigment and Dyeing:
1 : Fill your prepared dye bath with enough water so that the fabric you are dyeing will be able to move around freely. Bring to a boil. Add your dyestuffs (plant matter or what not) to cheesecloth (to use as a strainer) and add to the pot.
2 : Times are approximate--the dye extraction could take more or less time. Generally simmer for an hour. HOWEVER, some extractions take days and must be done through steps (or processes)
3 : Remove the dyestuff/strainer and discard spent matter.
Third Step: Dye the fabric. Use natural fibers. They tend to take natural dyes much better. Plant vs. animal fibers result in different results.
1 : Add your fabric to the dye vat/dye bath.
2 : Again, time is approximate. Generally, Simmer for an hour.
3 : When the pigment has fully saturated the piece and it does not appear to be getting any darker, remove from the vat/bath.
Fourth Step: Wash/Rinse the fabric.
Wash examples include those: made from iron, wood, soda ash, salty ocean water or vinegar. In some case, the rinsing may effect color.
Fifth Step: Hang your pieces to dry. Iron after 24-48 hours. and iron afterwards.
Natural dyeing is experimental---keep a notebook! Experiment! Experiment! And don't get frustrated.