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Long-Lasting Natural Fabric Dye

Natural fabric dye is an eco-friendly, inexpensive way to stain fabrics, using plants instead of synthetic chemicals. A craft that has been around for centuries, but now it is making a comeback. The textile industry is one of the most important industries in the world. It is a significant contributor to the global economy and has been around for centuries.

In this article, we will explore botanical fabric dying and the use of soya milk in the formulation to bind plant dyes to fabrics. This technique allows you to use natural plants and flowers as a dye source. We know that plants contain natural pigments called tannins that naturally bond to fibres and make them more resistant to things like sunlight and water. Tannins are found in plants, and they are what give the plant its colour.

It is believed that the first people to use plant dyes were the ancient Egyptians. They used vegetable dyes for clothes, household items and their mummies. The word ‘dye’ comes from a word in old Egyptian meaning ‘to colour’. However, the process was not used on fabric until the 18th century, when it became popular in Europe and America.

Natural fabric dying provides various colours, from delicate pastels to deep rich hues. The process of botanical fabric dyeing is also known as natural dyeing or vegetal dyeing becuase it does not use any artificial chemicals or synthetic dyes. It starts with gathering fresh plants and kitchen food waste, extracting the dye and then dying the fabric. Natural fabric dyes can be used on any natural textile material such as cotton, linen, silk, wool, and hemp. It is a process that is so fulfilling in more ways than one.

The beauty of plant dying is that there are so many methods, and there isn’t just one right way to go about it. In this blog post, we will discuss a natural’ whole dyestuffs’ approach using fresh and dried whole plants ‘Botanical Colour At Your Finger Tips‘ by Rebecca Desnos. 


Natural Plant Dye & Fibre

Natural fibres are either of protein or cellulose origin. Cellulose fibres are the most common type of fibre and include cotton, linen, hemp and bamboo viscose. They are made from plant matter that is turned into a pulp, which is then processed to make yarn or fabric. Cellulose fabrics are usually soft and breathable, making them suitable for summer clothing. They require a mordant treatment to fix the dye to the fibre otherwise, the colour will wash out quickly. Protein fibres such as wool, silk and soybean readily absorb colour and generally don’t require mordanting. In Rebecca’s book, she uses vegan fibres only.

Different types of natural plant dye bond to the fibres in different ways. The type of dye and the way it is applied will determine how much colour is absorbed into the fibre. Natural mordants can be found in plants, and substantive dyes such as pomegranate skin, avocado stones and tea contain tannins, which act as a natural mordant and help bond the colour of the dye to the fibres. Vat-dyes are a sub-category of substantive dyes, including indigo and woad. They are a class of reactive dyes, and the reduction agent is required to remove the oxygen to make the dye soluble in water for the dye to bond. Adjective dyes are colours that can be derived from flowers and berries. The colours from these dyes need a mordant to be able to bind to the fabric.

natural fabric dye

Natural Mordants

The main mordant used by Rebecca is soybean protein in the form of soya milk. The process of dying with soya milk is relatively new and has been used for less than a decade. Cellulose fibres soaked in soya milk absorb some of the soy protein, which changes the properties of the fibres by strengthening the bond between the fibre and the dye, making them more durable, similar to protein fibres and able to absorb more dye and become more colour fast. In addition, the process is sustainable because it uses natural materials and leaves no toxic by-products in the environment.

As discussed earlier, natural mordants in the form of tannins can be found in plant materials. Combining the soya milk mordanting process with tannin-rich dyes increases dye uptake. An example is red onion skin dye; when not treated with soya milk produces green and dark brown on cellulose fibres when treated.

Rebecca explains in her book all the different palettes of colours of natural fabric dyes with pages of colour swatches showing dye colours from plants that you can create. Then, in detail, she talks you through the four crucial principles she follows when dyeing cellulose fibres to ensure your colours are rich and long-lasting. Finally, she provides all the information you need from choosing plants, storing, plants with scent, colour variation, patterns, plants dyes from the wild, garden, kitchen, equipment and safety.

natural fabric dye

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