It’s Not Easy Being Green

Eco dyeing is one of the latest techniques making the art quilt rounds. Essentially, you use plant materials to color fabric. I had a chance to try it at a recent quilting getaway.

We gathered bits of silk, linen and cotton (this had to be mordanted with alum first); wet them; covered them with the plant material; wrapped them around a stick or pipe; and tied them tightly. Here’s our plant material buffet.

Eco dyeing buffetAlas, none of those lovely flower colors came through; our results ran to the green/gray/black spectrum with a bit of yellow from turmeric root. We tried to get lime green with lemon slices and chopped fresh garlic, but all that did was make our fabric smell bad.

Eco dyeing 1This is what I did to a damask napkin.

Eco dyeing 3My Great Aunt Dinah would be horrified at my treatment of her pillowcase. In my defense, the fabric on the top half had split so it wasn’t usable on a pillow.

Eco dyeing 7 linenWe threw this piece of linen into the cooking pot without wrapping it.

After boiling our bundles for a few hours we pulled them out of the water and set them out on the back porch to cure. They were supposed to remain wrapped up for a few days, but you would have thought we were kids at Christmas. I think three bundles remained intact for a few days. The rest were torn into eagerly.

My fellow dyers achieved better results than I did. I’ll use my cloth, but I don’t expect to make it the star. I understand better why aniline dyes were so thrilling when they were introduced. Brown and green clothing are same old, same old after a century or so.


Filed under dyeing

4 responses to “It’s Not Easy Being Green

  1. It’s … nice. Well. Okay. So I would use it thoughtfully, too. Not the sort of colors to go in all kinds of quilts. But still it was a success, yes? 🙂

  2. I like your point about aniline dyes–can you imagine the possibilities they opened up?! Those people would think you were crazy to choose to go back to natural dyes and settle for the muted shades!

    • Some people like the muted shades and subtle mottled effects. I have a vague plan to use many of my eco dyed fabrics, but I think I’ll combine them with eco dyed yellow. There’s just so much murky color I can handle.

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