DIY Articles- Natural colors

How to prepare dye from natural materials?

Have you ever wondered how humans used to bring colors in clothes, walls, and paintings before chemical pigments were invented? The simple life then had a simple and local solution for everything. Using the local material for building the house, eating locally grown organic food, weaving with indigenous wool and cotton, and also dyeing the cloth with fruits, leaves, flowers, and locally available food; were the sustainable approach towards life.   

Preparing colorful dyes with natural material is very satisfying. It is very fascinating that one can create a colorful pallet of dyes from the materials available merely in his/her kitchen and garden. Let’s learn more about such colorful natural materials around us and the magical process of dyeing the fabric at home.

What are the natural materials for dyeing?

Red: Hibiscus is one of the common flowers which every house garden owns. A nice reddish-purple dye can be created from this beautiful flower by boiling it with water. Dried leaves can also be used for preparing dye.  The vitamin-rich superfood, beetroot has the marvelous natural red color which prepares the dark red-brown dye. 

Orange: The leaves of Palash also known as ‘Kesudo’ in Gujarati are traditionally used to prepare orange color by boiling the flowers in water for the Indian traditional festival of Holi. To prepare the dye, the flower petals are ground after soaking in warm water; following that the petals are dried under the shade and then finely ground again into powder form. 

Purple: Sweet and tangy fruit of Mulberry leaves distinctive shades of purple on lips and tongue after the indulgence. The same fruit can make the fabric vibrant with the shades of purple. Mulberries are boiled then crushed to get the purple color water as a dye.      

Yellow: ‘Haldi’, turmeric is the basic ingredient of Indian cuisine. Haldi is highly valued for its antiseptic and antibacterial properties in Ayurveda. Turmeric powder is put in the boiling water and after simmering it for almost an hour, it can be used to dye the fabric. 

Green: Apart from being nutritious and Popeye’s energy food, Spinach can also be used to get the amazing green dye. Boiling spinach leaves and with water brings the wonderful green color to dye fabric. The older leaves produce a darker and richer shade of green. 

Brown: Onion skin is the simplest natural dyeing due to its inherent property of producing tannins which work as a mordant. Thus, the process of mordanting before dyeing the fabric can be eliminated here. The dye bath prepared from onion produces a light brown shade on the fabric. To get the darker shade, the same fabric is dyed with multiple layers after completely drying the previous layer.

Black: Surprisingly, the rusted junk in your backyard can also be used to prepare the natural dye. Rusted scraps/nails are not plants or food but the rust around them reacts with the distilled white vinegar and produces the black color of dye. After dyeing fabric with this dye bath, it must be mordanted with alum to fix the black dye. 

Apart from mentioned colors of dye, more colors can be achieved by overlapping the fabric with two dyes one after another and appropriate color mixing. Red dyed fabric is re-dyed with yellow to get the orange shade and the blue-dyed fabric gets the shades of green after re-dyed in yellow color. One can play with different shades and create interesting combinations in this process.

What Kind of Fabric to be used for natural dyeing?

Natural dye is not compatible with all kinds of fabrics. It works best with fabrics produced from natural materials.  Some of the synthetic fabrics may get the natural dye but the lighter version of the original color. The suggested fabrics for natural dyeing are wool, cotton, silk and linen. Natural dye and fabrics made with natural material are non-carcinogenic and environment friendly. 

How to dye fabric at home?

Before starting the process of dyeing, the fabric needs to be washed and kept wet for the process of mordanting. Mordant is used to prepare the fabric to absorb the colors properly and to improve the color-fastening of the fabric.  Alum, vinegar, or salt can be used as mordant according to the dye we are using. The solution of Mordant is prepared by boiling it with the water then the fabric is soaked in it almost for an hour. After properly mordanting the fabric, it is washed with cool water and ready to be dyed. 

Process:

  1. Cover the work area with newspaper or plastic sheets to protect the surface from being colored. 
  2. Once the dye bath is ready, place the fabric in it and boil it on a low flame for an hour, keep stirring it once in a while.
  3. Boil the fabric until you get the desired color on it. Just keep in mind that the color looks lighter after getting dried. 
  4. The longer fabric stays in the dye the darker shade of color it gets. Once you achieve the desired color, take it out and wash it with cold water. The excess dye will be washed out.
  5. Dry the fabric in shade.

That’s all you have to do to prepare the home-made natural dyed fabrics. Covert the fabrics into curtains, cushion cover, table cloth, and even shirts! 

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