Mankind has been creating and using dyes for thousands of years. Cave paintings found across the world were created made with dyes of different ingredients, including the blood of antelope. For most of recorded history, however, dyes were largely made using plants as the base ingredient and are still widely used for dyes in the modern world.
Today, most people would try and find a local store to get hold of a dye, and while this might be necessary when looking for certain colours, many others can simply be made using basic ingredients.
The Right Plants
Plants should be the first place a person looks when wanting to create their own dyes. There are many plants that have natural dyes in their cells, and it’s these chemicals that give the plants themselves their unique colours. Fortunately, many of these plants can be easily found at the local grocery store and are usually cheap enough to be purchased in serious quantity. Some of the best plants to use for dyes include:
- Beets: Beets are a fantastic way to make red or pink dyes, depending on the hue of the beet as well as the concentration of the solution used to extract the dye. They’re an extremely cheap vegetable and not that many are needed to make a lot of dye. Mince the whole beat, including the leaves, and then boil for 30 minutes. Leave overnight, and then strain, and fabric can be soaked in the dyed water.
- Tea: Teas of every variety can be used to make brown dyes of different shades. It’s worth experimenting with different kinds of tea to find colours and shades that match a specific piece of fabric.
- Coffee: Coffee can also be used to make a dye, one that’s generally much darker than what teas can provide.
- Turmeric: Anyone that has cooked with turmeric before will know how easily it is to accidentally dye every piece of fabric in the vicinity. Use around 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric to 1 litre of water, but more turmeric can be added for a much richer, gold colour.
- Spinach: A tasteful green dye can be extracted from regular spinach, which will need to be minced up, boiled for around half an hour, and then allowed to sit overnight in a dye bath, which is the perfect opportunity to catch up on a series or play the latest mobile pokies NZ has to offer.
Making The Dye Bath
Any piece of fabric can be dyed, but 100% cotton is the best as it retains the dyes the longest. It’s also important to have the right combination of materials for the dye, including salt and vinegar, and a fixer like alum powder. Vinegar and alum powder are needed to bond the dye to the fabric that’s being used. On top of that, it’s also a good idea to expose the newly dyed fabric to full sunshine for at least 1 day, but 2 days is better. It takes some experimenting, but it can be a great way of dyeing fabric at home.