Dyeing with Dandelion

My hand dyed yellow while I picked dandelions.
Past weekend, I wanted to try my hand in dyeing with dandelion. So I went to local city park to gather some dandelions. I read dandelion yield dye better when fresh, so I jumped right into making dye bath as soon as I came back home.  I weighed the dye stuff first(mostly flowers, some stems).  The weight of dye stuff will give you rough idea of how much fabric you can dye with it.  Every batch of natural dye will come out differently and it's very difficult to predict the degree of saturation.  But I would say ratio of 2 to 1(two being the weight of the dye stuff, and one being the weight of the fabric) would be good enough for the color I would like to achieve. 

Happy dandelions at nearby city park.  Good thing they haven't been mowed down yet.

Into a pot they go.

You want to use large enough pot and enough water so your fabric can move freely while it is in the dye bath.  Water and the dandelion goes into the pot and then the mixture get boiled for about an hour.  While the pot boiled, I prepared the fabric I want to dye.  The silk (crepe de chine, heavier weight) was washed thoroughly and kept soaking in the water.  When the dye stuff had done boiling for an hour, you filter the dye stuff to yield the dye liquid.  You can keep the filtered dye stuff aside for later use(I will come back to this later).  

Dye stuff was filtered and set aside.

Into the dye liquid, silk goes in.

Wet silk went into the dye liquid and pot simmered for an hour on the stovetop.  Roaring boil, I was told, would reduce the natural luster of silk fabric, so I avoided boiling the silk and kept the temperature to simmer.  After an hour of simmering, I let the silk cool in the dye bath for a few hours.  In a separate pot, I prepare a mordant bath.  

Natural dye often fades quickly and in most cases colors are not light fast.  And mordant acts as a color fixer making color more permanent.  "Alum" is mordant I use with most of my botanical dyeing.  It is non-toxic unlike number of other mordants used for natural dyeing.  Cream of tar tar(available in grocery store) can be used as an assisting agent to the mordant.  In the pot, I mix in two spoonful of alum and a spoonful of cream of tar tar in the water.  I put the silk into the mixture and simmer for an hour.  Mordanting can be done before or after the dye bath process, but it could also be done in-between, as it was done in this case.  

Once the mixture have simmered for an hour, I transfer the silk back into the dye bath.  The filtered dye stuff was put into a polyester mesh pocket then dropped into the dye bath pot along with the silk.  I let that simmer for an hour again.  So I used the dye bath twice, before and after the mordanting.  After the second round of dye bath simmering, I left the silk in the dye bath to cool overnight.  This step may not make too much difference to the results in this case, but longer time in dye bath often yield deeper color with other tannin rich dye bath(such as bark or leaf base dyes).  Toward the end of the dye bath simmering, I threw in some iron rust liquid.  Rust acts as modifier, and it pushes the color into more reddish or somber looking tone.

Top one was left in dye bath 10 hours longer.  Color difference is very slight.

At the end, I got a light olive green.  Without the iron modifier, I would have gotten greenish yellow.  Leaving the silk in the dye bath overnight didn't make too much difference in this case.  There is very subtle difference, one being slightly more dark.  

Color looks very mellow and natural, two best characteristic of natural dye.  It does take time and patience to do this, but it's such a joy to own a piece of garment which I helped to color from the scratch.  Dandelion is such a humble plant, so ubiquitous but useful in so many ways.  And I really like and appreciate the color,  I will surely put the cloth into a good use.

Things You need for this project:

silk - I used crepe de chine, heavier weight.  
dandelion - I used mostly flowers, but other parts of plants can also be used.
alum - for mordanting, can be purchased in art supply or craft stores
cream of tar tar - for mordant assistant agent, sold in grocery store, spice section.
rust liquid - color modifying agent.  optional, make your own with a rusty nail in a jar of water.
two large pots
colanders - to strain dye stuff.
polyester or nylon mesh pouch - color fast pouch to contain dye stuff.
metal ladle - for stirring

I used "Wild Color" by Jenny Dean as guide book.


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