Playing with natural dye extracts

Several months ago I put a call out to the diverse community of local textile and fiber enthusiasts asking if there was interest in starting a local natural dye study group affiliated with the Textile Center of Minnesota. At least 15 people responded, and now we have a fledgling natural dye group in the Twin Cities! We met first in March, and will meet again this Wednesday in the Textile Center dye lab. This group is about exploration, experimentation and sharing – i.e. more play than structured learning. At the first meeting, participants shared their lovely naturally dyed samples. (I wish I had taken photos of them). This week we are going to play with Earthues Natural Dye extracts, both immersion and direct application methods. (Earthues has a new blog and hopefully will have an online shop soon.)

In preparation for leading the meeting, I did some playing on my own. Here’s a peek at my wool scrap, followed by some notes describing what I did with it.

I mixed up several colors (cutch, logwood purple, pomegranate and madder), along with iron water and cream of tartar water, and gum tragacanth thickener. I pasted several of my stencils on two large scraps of wool and silk which had been soy sized and mordanted (painted with alum). I added thickener to the natural dye extracts and painted it on. I also painted on iron water and cream of tartar to see what would happen to the colors. My guide for these experiments is the Natural Dye Instruction Booklet by Michele Wipplinger of Earthues, which you can find here. The book covers several methods of applying these natural dyes to cloth.

I used the extracts full strength along with the thickener. I also used the iron water at full strength. Next time I’ll dilute these considerably. When I painted on iron water and cream of tartar water, I could see the color changes instantly. There is a bit of magic to this! I’m excited to learn more about these dyes!

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