What do you need to get started Natural Dyeing?
Here are my favorite, must-have and nice-to-have items.
My journey with Natural Dyes began a few years ago.
Looking to understand color better for my own fiber arts practice, I took an in-person workshop and it was down the rabbit hole I went!
Because I'm all about making eco-friendly choices and living sustainably when I can, I began my home-dyeing process with a few trips to the local thrift or second-hand store(s). It took a while to find all the pieces I have today, but items seem to pop up in unusual places just as you need them...even when you didn't know you were looking for them.
Re-using and recycling, though not as flowy, filtered and instagram-able, is the way to go, especially when working with items from Nature.
A sustainable ode of gratitude for the generous gift of color.
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* Pots to mordant and natural dye with.
Preferably, stainless steel, aluminum or enamelware. Pick up a random pot at the thrift or invest in a few that'll go the journey.
Most importantly -- Don't ever use your own kitchen food-cooking pots. Mordants are, in general, not food-safe, as well as most Natural Dyes. So clearly label your dye pots and don't confuse them for everyone's safety. Ever.
(Example) stainless steel pots
* A place to cook mordant and natural dye.
If using your kitchen's stovetop, keep mordant and natural dye pots lidded and open your windows for proper air circulation because.
Otherwise, electric burners are great for making your natural dye process more portable (e.g. use on your patio, porch, deck, garage, by a window, etc.).
Important -- Don't ever do the Natural Dye process in the kitchen while cooking foods. It's safest to simply cook while you're cooking or dye while you're dyeing...but don't mix the too for everyone's safety.
* Stirring implements are a must, but leave you a lot of room for creativity.
Use a thrifted spoon or fork, tongs, chopsticks--even a clean stick will do--or consider investing in some of the items below, all of which are very useful too.
NOTE -- Don't ever use your own kitchen food-cooking implements. Mordants are, in general, not food-safe, as well as most Natural Dyes. So once you use them with the Natural Dye process, clearly label and don't interchange them.
* Something to weigh your fiber/fabric, mordant and natural dye, reliably.
(Example) scale (digital)
* Items to stir and mix your goods.
I highly recommend you use an assortment of recycled goods for this. Cleaned out plastic food tubs or jars work perfectly (e.g. yogurt, ricotta, salsa, hummus containers or glass jars from jam, preserves, etc.) for weighing dry goods on the scale and for mixing, diluting, pouring items during the process.
You may choose to invest in simple measuring spoons and measuring cups also for this purpose...but as mentioned on items above, once you use any of these items (minus the scale for weight) for the process, do not use them again with food and cooking.
(Examples) measuring spoons
* Items to protect you during the process.
Gloves, face masks and aprons all come in handy for avoiding direct contact with mordants and dyes. Gloves can save your hands, especially when you want to grab something that's still hot. Face masks help with avoiding breathing in fine particulates, steam, etc. And aprons keep those splashes and stains tamed.
(Example) heat resistant gloves
* A place to cure and dry mordanted and dyed items.
This can be any place you have that allows you to set your wet items to dry. Just note that any dye that rubs off can rub onto other items in the future.
A metal drying rack is a perfect work-around because you can wipe it down with a soapy wet cloth after use.
A clothesline is another great, small-foot-print option that's easy to store.
* A thermometer to measure the temperature.
All thermometers will work, though once you dip one in a mordant or dye bath, it shouldn't be used as a healthcare item any longer. Temperature should be more carefully regulated and watched with some delicate fibers (e.g. silk and wool) and more temperature-sensitive Natural Dyes (e.g. Madder Root). The infrared thermometer below is my all-time favorite splurge that makes life so so much easier.
(Example) thermometer (infrared)
* pH strips to measure the pH of your Natural Dye baths.
This is completely optional. You can either dye with what you have, or learn to adjust the pH for varying your results.
(Example) pH strips
* Rags or old dishtowels to clean up with.
Natural Dyeing is a lot like cooking in that you've got liquids that occasionally splash with messes here and there occurring. Grab a few old dishtowels for an eco-friendly approach to clean up and just drop them in the wash afterward.
The Natural Dye process is inherently not a food-safe one.
Yes, Natural Dyes are "natural."
But just as you wouldn't grab any old mushroom from the yard and eat it...so it goes with Natural Dyes and Mordants. Once you use any item that comes in contact with Mordants and Dyes, please label or mark it and only use it as a craft-making item.
Do NOT use your kitchen food-cooking items for the process.
For more information on Natural Dyes and each step of the Natural Dye process, check out "Intro to Natural Dye," ANINI Designs' 48-page eBook.
I cover everything I teach in my 4-hour in-person Intro to Natural Dye Workshops, in addition to offering eco-friendly adaptions to the process.