I read a post on one of my favorite blogs, Crafting a Green World, about dyeing fabric with natural materials. I was so stoked to see this as I've been wanting to try dyeing fabric for ages, but didn't want to invest in dyes (especially not chemical dyes). Not wanting to waste the yummy parts of my fruits, I collected the remains (pits, mushy parts, uneaten parts) of red fruits including pluots, plums, cherries, and even the yellow pit of a mango, storing them in the freezer until I had what I thought was enough to make the dye.
I then basically followed Leslie's directions, throwing all the fruity stuff into a pot of water and boiling it while my undyed hemp/cotton jersey and undyed hemp cotton/fleece simmered in a pot of salt water. But being in charge of two 6-year-olds who were nursing a hurt bee in the back yard, I got a little impatient. I certainly didn't simmer the fabric in the salt fixative for an hour and I didn't boil the fruit for an hour.
While the girls were safely playing, I ran a strainer through the dye water a number of times getting out most of the pits and mush. I then added the fabric to the gorgeously red boiling water. I would say I simmered the fabric in the dye for about 40 minutes.
Here are some pictures and thoughts about the process (which I will definitely try again!):
Look at that beautiful color! I need to check the thrift stores for some huge kettles, this little one just isn't enough.
Results of the hemp/cotton jersey. The middle fabric is undyed for comparison. The left fabric was removed from the dye just after simmering - it's VERY light pink. The right fabric was removed from the dye about 5 hours after simmering - it's a light cranberry. The dyed fabrics were washed and ironed prior to this photo. Next time - more time in the fixative, more time simmering in the dye, and leave the fabrics in the dye overnight.
Results of the hemp/cotton fleece. Dyed fabric is on the left, undyed on the right. This fabric took to the dye nicely. It was kept in the dye for about 5 hours after simmering. Again it was washed before this photo. As with the jersey, I would have left it in the dye and fixative longer. I was hoping for a darker color.
Since I had all this gorgeous red water I tried dyeing paper for fun. As you can see, it makes the paper wrinkly, but this natural paper (from the thrift store so I don't know the fiber, but I assume tree fiber) DID turn a little pink. Next time I would add the dye to a paper making mixture and just make the pink paper. I would let the paper mush soak in the colored water for awhile in the hope that the paper would turn a darker shade of pink.
All in all, a worthy, and super fun experiment. I'm going to find some bigger kettles and use this great resource for choosing materials to use.