Are you looking for a natural way to dye your fabric? So many beautiful colors occur in nature: the bright yellow of marigold flowers, the beautiful purple of red onion skin, or the neutral tones of tea and coffee. You can use these completely natural sources to dye your fabric!
But how do you dye fabric with marigolds? You’ll need equal weights marigolds to fabric and a mordant solution made from aluminum acetate or alumn, depending on your fabric. Then, you can make a dye bath using marigolds and dye your fabric as usual.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to a super easy way to dye your fabric with this environmentally friendly, non-toxic, and 100 percent natural dye!
What Type Of Fabric Can Be Dyed Using Marigolds?
The first thing you should know about dyeing fabric with marigolds, or any type of natural dye for that matter, is that it doesn’t work on synthetic fabric.
That’s because synthetic fabrics are essentially plastic, and if you want to dye synthetic fabric, you’ll need to use disperse dye, which has a formula specifically designed to help the dye adhere to the fabric.
You can only use natural dyes with natural fabrics like cotton, linen, wool, or silk. Natural fabrics absorb and hold dye very well without much assistance, which is why they work well with natural dyes.
There are two types of natural fabrics: cellulose-based fibers and protein-based fibers. Cellulose fibers are fibers that come from plants, such as cotton, linen, or hemp. Protein-based fibers are fibers that come from animals, such as wool or silk.
Why does this matter, you may ask?
While natural fibers absorb dye very well, they don’t hold dye very well, which means the colors are very prone to bleeding in the wash and becoming duller over time.
This is especially a problem when you use natural dye since they don’t have any fixatives to help the colors bond with the fabric. Of course, when you dye a piece of fabric, you’ll want the colors to stay. That’s why a mordant is required to help the natural dye.
A mordant is just a dye fixative that helps the dye stick to the fabric. If you use a store-bought dye, the dye usually already contains a dye fixative. However, if you use a natural dye, then you’ll need to treat the fabric with a mordant separately to help the dye set.
You’ll need to use different mordants for cellulose fibers compared to protein fibers, which is why it’s good to know which type of fiber you’re dyeing so you can purchase the correct mordant to treat it.
What You Will Need
Once you’re ready, let’s take a look at what you’ll need to prepare to dye your fabric using marigolds.
- A white or light-colored natural fabric
- A scale to weigh your fabric
- Equal weight in marigold flowers. You can adjust how many marigolds to use; the more marigolds in the dye bath, the more vibrant the colors will be!
- A mild, pH-neutral detergent
- Aluminum acetate (for cellulose fibers) or aluminum potassium sulfate (for protein fibers)
- A large pot to submerge your fabric
How To Dye With Marigolds
Once you have prepared the necessary materials, let’s take a look at the steps to dye your fabric with marigolds!
1. Scour Your Fabric
Scouring is just a dyer’s way of saying: pre-wash your fabric!
This is because fabrics that come from the manufacturers can be treated with all types of solutions that may interfere with the dye’s performance. If there’s any type of oil, wax, or dirt on the fabric, the dye won’t be able to penetrate effectively into the fibers, and the dye won’t work.
If you have a low-maintenance cellulose fiber fabric, such as cotton or linen, you can just scour your fabric using the washing machine. Check the fabric’s washing instructions first to make sure you follow the correct settings to wash the fabric.
Then, you can run the fabric through the longest cycle available to remove any oil and dirt residue from the fabric. You don’t have to dry the fabric; just move straight to mordanting the fabric after this step.
If you have a delicate protein-based fabric, you can also scour it in a pot. Fill your pot with warm water (make sure that the water’s not too hot, or it may damage the fabric) and mix in your pH-neutral detergent according to the detergent’s instructions.
Then, soak your fabric in the solution for an hour, occasionally stirring to make sure that the solution can reach every corner of the fabric.
After about an hour, you can remove the fabric from the scouring bath and rinse it under cold water. Gently press on the fabric to remove the excess water, and then you can move on to the next step.
2. Make A Mordant Solution
After scouring your fabric, you’ll need to treat the fabric with a mordant solution to help the dye stick to the fabric. This step is a bit different depending on if you are dyeing cellulose fibers or protein fibers. Let’s take a look at the two methods below.
3. Cellulose Fibers
Aluminum acetate is a mineral salt that’s highly effective as a mordant for cellulose fibers. Depending on how much your fabric weighs, you’ll need 1/10 of that weight in aluminum acetate.
For example, if your fabric weighs 300 grams, you’ll need 30 grams of aluminum acetate. To prepare your mordant solution, mix the aluminum acetate in a hot water bath until the aluminum acetate is dissolved.
Then, submerge your fabric completely in the solution and let it soak for 24 hours, occasionally stirring to make sure that the solution is spread evenly throughout the fabric.
Don’t leave the fabric in the mordant bath for more than 24 hours since it can weaken and damage the fabric.
After 24 hours, remove the fabric from the mordant bath, and rinse it under cold water to remove any residue. Remove the excess water, and your fabric is ready to be dyed with marigolds!
4. Protein Fibers
To mordant protein fibers, you’ll need to use aluminum potassium sulfate (also called alum), which won’t damage the protein fibers.
You’ll also need 1/10 the weight of the fabric in alum, similar to the above. Fill your pot with hot water and mix the alum with the water until it is completely dissolved. Then, you can submerge the fabric in the solution.
Place your pot on the stove, and simmer the water for two hours, occasionally stirring to make sure the mordant bath is evenly spread.
After two hours, turn off the stove and remove the fabric. Rinse the fabric under cold water and remove the excess water to get the fabric ready for dyeing.
5. Make A Dye Bath
Now, it’s the fun part! Let’s make a dye bath using marigolds. Fill a pot ¾ of the way with water. You don’t want to fill it to the top because then it will overflow when you add your fabric!
Bring the pot to a boil and reduce the heat to let the water simmer. Add your marigold flowers to the pot – similar to making tea. If you’re not sure about what color you want, you can add the flowers gradually until you achieve the color that you want.
Keep in mind that the colors that you see will be more vibrant than what will show up on the fabric, so if you want the dye fabrics to be super vibrant, use all of the marigolds that you have.
Let the solution simmer for about 30 minutes for the most vibrant color. After 30 minutes, you can use a strainer to remove all of your marigolds from the dye bath, but this step is optional.
Then, add your fabric to the dye bath. Make sure that the dye can reach every part of the fabric so that the dye will be even. Alternatively, you can also use rubber bands to create different designs on the fabric as your dye.
Leave the fabric to simmer in the dye bath for an hour, occasionally stirring to ensure an even dye job. If you want the colors to be super bright and vibrant, you can also add a bit of soda ash to the dye bath in this step.
After an hour, turn off the stove and let the solution cool.
6. Wash Your Fabric
Remove your fabric and rinse away the excess dye. Then, hand your fabric to air dry to help the dye set.
After the fabric is dry, run the fabric through a cold-water cycle using a mild detergent. If you have a delicate protein-based fiber, you’ll need to hand wash the garment.
This step will help remove any excess dye, and you’ll be left with a beautiful, vibrant golden color!
Here’s a great tutorial from My Tiny Laguna Kitchen on YouTube.
Caring For Naturally Dyed Fabrics
One disadvantage of natural dyes is that the colors are not very durable, so extra care is required to make sure that the colors will stay.
You should always wash naturally dyed fabrics separately from your other clothes, especially light-colored clothes. Naturally dyed fabrics are very prone to bleeding, so your other clothes may be affected when washed with naturally dyed fabrics.
You should always wash your naturally dyed fabrics using cold water and mild detergent to keep the bleeding to a minimum. Hot water can cause the dye to dislodge from the fibers, resulting in fading.
Finally, when you need to dry the fabric, keep it away from sunlight. Sunlight can cause colors to fade from fabric, and this effect can be quite severe for naturally dyed clothing. You should always air dry your fabric in a shaded area to minimize fading.
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