Thursday, February 26, 2009

dying playsilks with 'natural' dyes

So, because playsilk dying tutorials with kool-aid and food coloring are a dime a dozen, I never borrowed to post one about the fun I've been having with dying these wonderfully open-ended play props. Also, because I was getting really frustrated with the less than stellar pictures my camera was turning out. But, boy has it been fun.

So, I knew I wanted to dye some earthy colors to add to our collection, and I figured what better way to get 'earthy' and 'all natural' than to head to the pantry?

The first step, not pictured, is to soak your silks in hot water with a splash of vinegar for 20 mins or so. While the silks are soaking, you can prepare your dyes. I used the left over grounds from our coffee this morning and ran the coffee maker again with 12 cups water (as measured on the coffee carafe). I also thought I'd give turmeric a go, so i sprinkled a bunch into the bottom of a four-cup measuring cup. How much? I didn't measure, but about this much:
I then added some vinegar to the turmeric and some salt as well 'cause I hadn't realized I was so low on vinegar. I was worried all the dye would wash out when I rinsed the silk, and I was pretty sure I had heard that salt could be used as a mordant. I figured it couldn't hurt anyhow... and I think it did help. How much, you ask again? I would guess about a 1/4 cup of vinegar and two tsps of salt or so. Then I poured in boiling water from the kettle to measure about 4 cups and stirred to combine. I put my silks to be dyed (in this case a 30''by30" and an 11"by11") into a pot and poured the turmeric mixture on top.

For the coffee silks (same sizes), I plopped them into a pot and poured the weakly brewed coffee over, with another 1/4 C of vinegar (all that was left) and some salt.
Then I put both pots on the stove top and brought to a boil. As they were boiling, I stirred the silks around pretty often to get even coverage. I meant to time how long the were on the stove, but my dear husband called right as I was putting them on, so I was talking to him all the while and lost track of time. I'd say they were probably on for 15 mins or so. Then I turned the burners off and let them cool for 5 mins or so. I planned to let them cool all the way in the pots before rinsing, but I'm simply too impatient.

They were such beautiful, and yes, very natural, earthy colors coming out of their dye baths! I was particularly impressed by the turmeric....
The coffee was a little lighter than I had anticipated, but beautiful nonetheless. I'm sure if dyed with full strength coffee, it probably would have been darker... but coffee is much too precious to me to 'waste' on silks.
I was super nervous rinsing them out that all the color would go right down the drain with the water-- but nope! It really didn't take very much rinsing either, before the water ran clear. Many people will throw their silks in the washing machine and give a rinse and spin (with no detergent), but I have community laundry and have to pay per load, so I just rinse mine in the kitchen sink and they seem to turn out just fine ;)

They're out in the living room drying now. I think Aurora will be very pleased with them when she wakes from her nap!


Atouria said...

I was just coming to see what your dye sources where. The first thing that popped in my mind was 'tumeric!' They look great. :)

Beth said...

I love the tumeric idea! That yellow is so beautiful and vibrant.