Natural dyeing

Repairing and reusing are great options to reduce our ecological impact on the environment. I had some leftover fabrics from the same bedsheets that I used to make the tapestry. These pieces were the perfect size to experiment with natural dyeing.

From the books, The secret life of colors by Kassia St Clair and The Politics of Design by Ruben Pater, I have learned about the history and meaning of colors. Today most colors are made with synthetic pigments. The color black, for example, is most of the time made from petroleum oil and the color purple is a quiet new synthetic color that was only available to the elite before the 19th century.

By following the natural dyeing online elective from the fabric station, I could start experimenting with this craft.

Research questions

  • Can I naturally dye clothing?
  • How much resources do I need?
  • Can I create a useful item from these fabrics?

Kurkuma dye

It was manageable to cut up the old linen bed sheets into pieces of 15 x 15 cm instead of using one big sheet. First the cloth has to soak in ¼ vinegar and ¾ water for one hour. Meanwhile I cut up kurkuma to try the coloring first. The kurkuma has to be boiling in ¼ vinegar and ¾ water for an hour as well. After that I added the pieces of soaked fabric to the pot and they were soaking for one hour in the dye mixture.

It was a sunny day therefore I also wanted to dry three pieces of clothing in the sun to see the effects of it. They are slightly lighter than the other six pieces that were dried in the shade.

it was surprising to see how easy and fun it was to dye with materials that I could buy at the green grocer. At this point, I do not know how long this color will stay in the fabric. However, I ordered a book about natural dyeing that explains the long term use of naturally dyed clothing.

Beetroot dye

The kurkuma dye was successful therefore I tried the same process with beetroot. Both kurkuma and beetroot are two vegetables that let stains behind if it touches my clothing. However beetroot had a much lighter end result than expected. While it was sitting in the pot I expected to be much more vibrant in color. However, this salamon color is an unexpected but beautiful color.

As an experiment I let three of the fabrics sit in the pot for only 5 minutes and the remaining six pieces for one hour. The difference is little to my surprise.

Tea towels

To create a useful item from these natural dyed pieces, I started sketching. Inspired by the Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic style that celebrates imperfection, I wanted to sew these pieces together. However, I have no experience with sewing. One of my friends, Lianne Janssen, has much more experience and she agreed to help me with sewing.

“There was no waste created”

Lianne also helped me with making choices. She advised me to overlap the pieces and sew them together with cotton thread. By doing so, there was no waste created since the pieces did not have to be cut to a certain size. By using cotton thread instead of polyester, the clothing is made of 100% natural fibers and can be recycled and composted as well.

Next steps

I am very happy with this process and end results. By reusing and only using natural materials it was possible to make a useful item at home, with help of an experienced designer. As a next step, I will design a label for these tea towels with the same methodes that I used for the tapestry as well. Next to that, I also want to natural dye (alpaca) wool and other materials.

This is an ongoing investigation and experimentation about materials that I find in my closet.