Plant dye

Plant dye is the oldest method to create colour effect to materials. Its considered to be more sustainable alternative in contrast with the synthetic pigment dyes, that can contain heavy toxic metals. The reason why i write “considered” is because of the over usage of water that a plant dyes requires, but I would always recommend that over using store bought pigments and colors for fabrics. Plant dyed color has the tendency to fade out overtime, as the dyes can be vulnerable to water or sunlight, but with the right preparations and after treatment, the color should be able to stay consistent.

I´ve been plant dyeing yarn now for a while, and its so much fun as you can develop your own colour nuances and be playful with the effects. Plant dyes can be created both with plants, vegetables and even bugs, but the process to create the different plant baths can be very different, so I recommend to search for precise recipe and use sites like Pinterest to find an inspiration for color options.

To add on to my process with yarn dyes, I wanted to experiment with a tie dye effect. The plant bath that I used was from a Cochineal insect, the insect is primary used today to colour food and lipstick, but the insect creates this strong red/purple colour. The insect comes from south America and its farmed there in order to create pigments. The cochineal that I used for this plant bath was in a powder form, and I mixed 60 grams of Cochineal with ca 7 liters of water. The basic recipe to create the color bath is to mix 10 grams of Cochineal with every 100 grams of yarn, but I wanted the colour to stay more pinkish as the sweater that I had knitted contained 10 x 100 gram balls of yarn.

As Cochineal is one of the substantive dyes, I didn’t need any fix in forehand to open the yarn fibers, the insect gives a strong stable colour on its own . I tied the sweater up and dipped it to the colour bath, but the bath has to reach 90 degree temperature. The sweater is dipped into the colour bath and I allowed it to stay there for over an hour. Afterwards I washed the sweater, first in a bath of vinegar and then with shampoo and conditioner. Im very pleased with the result and I look forward to experiment more with both plant dyes and different print effect.

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© Thelma Steimann