Wednes-DIY: Making Natural Dyes

I have been wanting to experiment with natural dyes for a while now, and with all the great new fall colors that have been popping up on our website (and featured in our monochromatic trend) I decided that it was time. This is such a fun, environmentally friendly project that takes a little time, but very little cash.

For today’s DIY I’ll tell you about what natural ingredients you can use to make natural dyes, and what shades of color they will yield.

What I got: red cabbage, lemons, oranges, beets, yellow onions, blackberries, blueberries, spinach.

For bluish/purple dyes:

blackberry-dye

red-cabbage

Blackberries and red cabbage can be used to make bluish/purple dyes.  It’s important to remember when working with natural dyes that experimentation is key – depending on the amount of ingredients you use and how long you leave a garment in the dye, the color you get can vary.

For pinkish/red dyes:

beets

beet-dye

blueberries

Beets and blueberries can make a really lovely dusty rose color.

For copper/orange dyes:

onions

onion-dye

I never realized what a beautiful color yellow onions can have! Their skins can make an alluring mustard yellow, coppery color.

For yellow dyes:

oranges

orange-dye

lemons

Orange and lemon peels can be used to make a soft pale yellow dye.

For green dyes:

spinach

spinach-dye

Finally, spinach can be used to make a beautiful shade of green.

Now what?

To make the dye, chop up your ingredients and put them in a pot with twice as much water as ingredients.  Bring the water to a boil and let simmer for an hour.  For deeper colors, you can leave the ingredients in the water (without heat) overnight.

Remove the hard materials from the mixture with a strainer, leaving you with the liquid dye.

Before dyeing, you will also need to create a fixative, which will help your fabric hold the dye.

When working with berries, use a salt fixative – put 1/2 cup of salt in 8 cups of water, put the fabric in and boil for one hour.

When working with vegetables, use a vinegar fixative – mix one part vinegar and four parts water, add your fabric and boil for one hour.

When you remove the fabric, rinse in cold water.

The fabric is now ready to dye! Just drop it in the desired color, let sit until it reaches the shade you want, remove and hang to dry.

I am going to make my dyes and start experimenting this weekend – I’ll share my results next week!

frank the bird

a heart-warming story from one of our free people girls…

“this morning i was walking back from the jharoka (the cafe down at the navy yard where we work) with my coffee and i spotted frank in the grass by our building.

he couldn’t fly, and i started to feel sad cuz all the dogs that come to work with their parents run around in that grass…
and i wasn’t sure how frank could avoid all those paws.

so my friends helped get a box and some gloves and we scooped up frank and put him inside with some grass so he felt cozy.

i called the schuylkill wildlife rescue center and they were so nice and said bring him in!

so i drove him up to the rescue and they said it was nice that frank was there because he still had his bloodfeathers and probably wouldn’t be able to fly for another week or so…

i’m glad such a place exists and i’m glad frank is going to be okay. :)”

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isn’t he the cutest?!? check out the schuylkill center’s website for more info on the awesome work that they do.

cutting back on oil

in the wake of both earth day and the oil spill in the gulf of mexico, we wanted to share a few helpful tips for things you can do to cut back on oil usage in your everyday life.  sure you might have heard it before, but it never hurts to have it top of mind…

replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or even cutting-edge light emitting diodes (LEDs). turn off lights and other devices when they’re not needed. candles are great at night!

eliminate electronics that sleep on a standby setting – they continue to pull a current even when “turned off.” AC adapters on many power cables pull current too, so those should be taken out of the wall when not in use. your best bet is a “smart” power strip, or a power strip that can be turned off at night.

when looking for new appliances, seek out the most energy-efficient models, and charge your MP3 player, laptop, PDA, cell phone, and camera with a portable solar charger.

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keep your house cool with natural ventilation instead of air conditioning as much as possible. use in-room, ceiling, or whole-house fans to move air throughout the house. blocking sunlight during hot hours of the day can also help.

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clothes driers gobble up a lot of power, so line drying can be a great energy saver.

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buy locally grown food, or if you have a garden, grow your own. transport uses oil.

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whenever you can, walk, bike, use public transportation or carpool. i am guilty of this just as much as anyone, but it is so, so important!

have a wonderful weekend :)

click on images for source.

andy goldsworthy…

…blows my mind.

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“movement, change, light, growth and decay are the lifeblood of nature, the energies that i try to tap through my work. i need the shock of touch, the resistance of place, materials and weather, the earth as my source. nature is in a state of change and that change is the key to understanding. i want my art to be sensitive and alert to changes in material, season and weather. each work grows, stays, decays. process and decay are implicit. transience in my work reflects what I find in nature.” – andy goldsworthy

see more of his work here.