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How Did Early Settlers Dye Fabric?  Did you know that a great source for natural

dyes can be found right in your own back yard from roots, nuts, flowers and fruit?  Early settlers had to weave their own fabric as well as sew and dye most of their own clothes.  The most common dyes available to them were the colors found in nature.


Yarn drying after being dyed in the early American tradition


 Before 1785 when machines (the power

loom) started to make fabric all fabrics were hand woven  People think you can just dip a piece of fabric in dye and it will hold the color.  This only works with dyes made from berries and tree bark.


How do you bind the dye to fabric?  Fabric actually needs a Mordant to bind the    

color to the fabric. Some examples are: vinegar, salt, cream of tartar or soda. Brass pots gave brighter colors than iron pots Mordents can determine the tint of a color (how dark or light it is) First dyes were made from insects, shellfish, plants


How Do You Make Plant Dyes?  Gather plant material for dyeing:  Blossoms should be in full bloom  Berries ripe and nuts mature


 To make the dye solution:  Chop plant into small pieces and

place in a pot.  Double the amount of water to plant material.  1 cup of flowers= 2 cups of water


ďƒş Bring to a boil, then simmer for about an

hour.

ďƒş Strain. Now you can add your fabric to be

dyed.


 Getting the fabric ready for the dye bath:  Muslin, silk, cotton and wool  You will have to soak the fabric in a color

fixative(mordant) before the dye process.  This will make the color set in the fabric.


 Color Fixatives:  Salt Fixative (for berry dyes) 1/2 cup salt to

8 cups cold water

 Plant Fixatives (for plant dyes) 4 parts cold

water to 1 part vinegar -4 cups of water for 1 cup of vinegar


Then…  Add fabric to the fixative and simmer for an

hour.  Rinse the material and squeeze out excess. Rinse in cool water until water runs clear.


 Dye Bath:  Place wet fabric in dye  Leave until you have the color you

want  Wash in cold water


 Let Fabric Dry!  Lay fabric out on newspaper


What Colors Can You Make From Different Plants?


Yellow  Onion Skins  Butternut

Squash  Carrot (roots)

    

Spinach Artichokes Grass Peach Leaves Black eyes Susan

Green


Purple  Red Cabbage  Dandelion (root)  Mulberries  Beets  Bark of a crab apple  Cherry (roots)  Blackberries tree  Blueberries  Grapes  Inner bark of a red maple tree Red


Brown  Coffee  Tea  Dandelions  Walnut (shells)

 Iris (roots)  Sumac (leaves)

 Acorns  Oak bark

Black


Plant Dye Science