Did you know that quality dyes can be made from natural materials? The craft of making such dyes was once a necessary household skill. The most common purpose for making dyes was for coloring fabrics. Flowers, berries, herbs, plants and even nuts may be used to make various colors. A deep purple dye can be made using fresh, ripe blackberries.
Things You'll Need
Two large pots
Light-colored fabric or clothing
Large wooden spoon
Prepare the fabric by presoaking it in the first pot, using a fixative solution for berry dyes. See the "Tips" section for details on making this solution.
Put on rubber gloves to avoid staining your skin.
Use a measuring cup to determine how many cups of berries are to be placed in the second pot. Crush them lightly with the back of the wooden spoon. Place the pot containing the berries onto the stove.
Measure 2 times the amount of water as berries. For example, if you used 3 cups of berries, pour in 6 cups of water. Pour this water over the berries in the pot. Bring the contents to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to simmer. Wait until the water has turned a deep shade of purple. Strain the berries and discard them.
Place the damp, presoaked, fixative-treated fabric to be dyed into the pot. Let the fabric simmer in the dye until the desired shade is attained. Leaving it to rest in the dye overnight yields darker results. The fabric will appear lighter than the color of the dye in the pot. Squeeze out the fabric under cool, running water and let it dry.
If you are dyeing fabric, remember that natural fibers (as opposed to synthetic or manmade) will absorb color better. Wool, cotton and silk are all good candidates. It helps if the fabric is already a light or neutral color.
If you choose to collect plant material in the wild, always leave at least 1/3 of the plant untouched, so it can naturally replenish itself.
Always prepare fabrics to be dyed by simmering them in a "fixative" solution. The material that will be dyed should be placed in the solution and simmered for 60 minutes. Rinse the fabric in cool water and squeeze the water out 2 or 3 times. After this has been done, the damp fabric can be placed into the dye. The fixative helps the colored dye adhere better to the fabric.
To make a fixative for berry-based colored dyes, use ½ cup plain salt mixed with 8 cups cool water. To make a fixative for plant/herbal-based dyes, use 4 cups water and 1 cup of vinegar.
Avoid mixing dyed fabrics with your other laundry. Dyed cloth should always be laundered alone (or with similar colors) in cold water.