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
ď‚§ Before 1785 when machines (the power
loom) started to make fabric all fabrics were hand woven ď‚§ People think you can just dip a piece of fabric in dye and it will hold the color. ď‚§ 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
ďƒş Strain. Now you can add your fabric to be
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
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