Linen fabric is a natural fabric so it can be easily dyed with natural plant material. There are millions of choices to dye it in various colors. However, for today, I wanted to dye it in a light brown color, the color of hessian/ jute fabric. This color was specifically asked for by one of my fabric buyers.
Earlier, I thought about getting it dyed from a dyer. However, my crafty mind just couldn’t pass up this lovely opportunity to try my hands at it instead. So, I set about finding which plant material I could use for dyeing it.
The options which I had handy were:
Coffee – this was the only thing I didn’t have and had to get it at the Nth hour in the night. Thanks to Raaj(my hubby) for always being my angel in disguise, as always. :D
Onion Peels: I have dyed with onion peels and it gives a yellowish tint so I didn’t use it.
I researched about how each color will look like when dyed. Coffee was my nearest matching choice.
Natural fabric dyed with natural plant dyes needs a mordant to fix the plant color into the fabric. This fixative is called a mordant.
A substance, typically an inorganic oxide, that combines with a dye or stain and thereby fixes it in a material.
If the plant dye is a berry, a salt mordant is used. However, I was using a bean and leaves. So I used white vinegar as a mordant.
So, here is how it is done…
Step 1: Wash the linen fabric to take off any dirt on the fabric before you can dye it.
Step 2: Prepare your mordant bath in a large utensil. I used 1 glass of Vinegar and 4 glasses of Water for 1 yard of medium weight fabric. You can use more or less depending upon the quantity of fabric you use. Whatever quantity of fabric you use, just make sure that the ratio of vinegar to water is:
Vinegar: 1 part
Water: 4 parts
Also, your fabric must be submerged fully in the liquid. Add your linen fabric to this vinegar bath and let it simmer for an hour.
Keep moving the fabric occasionally so all the parts of the fabric is covered and also to make sure the fabric doesn’t get burned while simmering.
Switch off the flame. Wash the fabric in cold water and wring out all the excess mordant in the fabric.
Step 3: Prepare the dye bath. Add 5 glasses of water in another utensil. Use an old pot which you don’t mind staining. Heat it on a stove.
I added 4 packets of Nescafe to a small bowl and added 1 tablespoon of water to it so all coffee mixed properly. This step helps in the coffee being distributed evenly on the fabric without leaving spots.
You may also use another type of instant coffee or coffee beans if you wish. You may also use more or less coffee to get a lighter or a darker color. I had to add 1 teaspoon of tea as well to the dye bath to get my desired color.
Here is the dye bath materials in short:
Water: 5 glasses
Nescafe: 4 packets. You may use any other instant coffee or coffee beans.
Loose tea: 1 teaspoon. I used Tata Tea. You may use a teabag instead. Do not use green tea, just the regular brown tea.
Once, the tea starts bubbling, pass the tea through a tea sieve and into another large pot(also one which you don’t mind being stained). This step helps in keeping all the tea and coffee small bits from entering into the fabric and staining it in spots.
Step 4: Add the wet fabric into the pot and mix all the color into the fabric by moving and agitating it with a wooden spoon. Do this step quickly otherwise, some portions of fabric will be darker than the other.
I have observed that the portion of fabric which is submerged first takes in more dye than the fabric which is submerged later. However, if all the fabric is agitated quickly into the dye bath, it will be distributed evenly.
Let the fabric simmer into the dye bath for another hour. Switch off the flame.
Step 5: Wash the fabric in cold water & wring it. If the color is light, you can again add it to the dye bath and let it stay in it for a few more hours or overnight.
I washed my fabric immediately to get this warm, gooey, huggable, kissable, light brown. It is almost beige in color and I absolutely love it!!!
Please wash the utensils you used for dyeing immediately so it is not stained. I was extra careful in not staining my hands this time :P .
However, you may or may not use rubber gloves to avoid staining your hands.
Since, I am extra crafty, I even found a good use for the dye bath. I watered
the acid loving plants in my garden with the cooled tea and coffee dye bath. It is a good fertilizer and plants also enjoy a cuppa tea sometimes. Cheers!
Fabric dyed with natural dyes will not maintain its color like chemical dyes do. The natural color will fade with each wash. However, it is worth a try and you won’t be using chemicals on your body. So all is good.
Here is my before and after picture of my tea and coffee stained fabric.
Enjoy dyeing your linen fabric or yarn using this tutorial. Feel free to share your dyeing experience in the comments below.