Magpie Anthology

Easy Home Dyeing Project: Kathryn Davey

Wondering what to do with all of those avocado stones and onion skins? Then wonder no more. Start dyeing your own fabrics…

As we enter into our fourth week in isolation and continue to adjust to these changes, I hope that you and your loved ones are staying healthy, safe and hopeful, which is no easy feat considering the circumstances. 

I have a few tutorials I would like to share with you, the first is a simple natural dyeing project you can do at home with ingredients that are easy enough to get your hands on. If you’ve never experimented with natural dyeing before this is a good project to start with, to get you used to the very basic process of dying. 

I have intentionally kept this as simple as possible with little explanation so you can follow the process and not get too caught up on measurements, rations, quantities etc.

 When it comes to natural dyeing there are a few things that you need to do in order to get good results. The first thing to consider is that the cloth you will be dyeing must be cleaned thoroughly by a method known as scouring. Scouring is a process of removing any natural oils, waxes or residues from the cloth that may be leftover from the manufacturing process or accumulated over time. You need to remove as much coating from the fibre as possible in order for the cloth to take up the dye effectively and evenly. It can be done on the stove or in the washing machine, for the purpose of keeping this project simple let’s just use the machine.

To prepare your fabric or items for dyeing you will need to wash it in the machine as you normally would but without detergent. 

YOU WILL NEED:

2 tsp of any of the following: baking soda, baking powder or soda crystals, if you don’t have any of these use 1 tsp of dish soap per item or per meter of fabric. Wash your item as you normally would substituting the above in place of detergent, the detergent will coat the fibre and make it harder for the dye to penetrate. If you think your item needs extra scouring run it through another cycle.

In order to keep things simple and we are going to use ingredients that have a mordant naturally present in them. You will need to choose ingredients that have tannin or tannic acid in them. The tannic acid naturally present in various ingredients will act as a mordant, fixing the colour to the fabric, increasing wash and lightfastness. A few things that are high in tannin are yellow onion skins, avocado stones, black tea or coffee. All you need for this project is a pot, whichever dye materials you choose and something to dye, water and your stove. 

As you will all be using different size pots, don’t get caught up on quantities or ratios at the moment. Just use what you have and see this as an exploratory project. If using avocado stones you will need at least 4/5, if using tea bags I would recommend at least 10 & for onion skins the skin from at least 5 onions. Of course, if you want to add more to get a stronger dye please do. You will need something to dye, maybe a pillowcase, napkins or an old t-shirt or top that you no longer wear. I would recommend starting with something cream, white or off white in colour. 

YOU WILL NEED:
Water
Strainer
Cooking pot
Something to dye
Natural dye ingredient

PROCESS:

Fill a pot with water and add dye ingredients, bring to boil and reduce to simmer. 

Simmer, noticing when water starts to change colour as the dye is released, this will be different depending on dye ingredient used.

Once the water has changed to a strong colour strain out the dye ingredients, top-up water if needed.

Add material making sure your item has enough space to move around freely, do not cram the pot.  

Keep on the lowest heat, stirring occasionally, leave the item in the pot until it starts to take up the dye and you are happy with the colour. This will be different for everyone and could range from 10 minutes to overnight, again depending on the colour you like and what dye you use. Be sure to turn off the heat if you are leaving it for an extended period of time.

When satisfied with the colour carefully remove the item from the pot.

Hand or machine wash as normal.

Pink colour from avocado stones
  • A few things to note: depending on what you dye with, each dye will take different times to release the colour. Tea and coffee will be the quickest with avocado stones taking at least an hour to start releasing the dye. 
  • If you want darker colours, add more dye material to the pot and leave your pieces in for longer. A more concentrated dye bath and more time in the pot will give you stronger shades.
  • Make sure that whatever you choose to dye is wet before putting into the dye pot. I like to keep my pieces soaking in a bucket of water, squeezing them out before putting in the dye bath. 

I’ll be posting a short video tutorial over on my Instagram stories if you want to take a look find me at @kathryn_davey.

I know this is a challenging time for so many of us, I’m sending my love and best wishes to you all. I hope you and your loved ones stay as healthy and safe as possible x.  

PS: Kathryn also has an online shop and runs international courses, please have a look at her gorgeous website.  www.kathryndavey.com

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