Well, wonder no more! With much hesitation, I present to you, a very tiny peak into the exciting personal life of Matthew Reid!
There has always been a great heaviness in my heart, consumed with guilt, over the fact that there is so much which I take for granted every day of my life. To make a VERY long story short (do not be reluctant to ask about the long story), for the most part, I have given up buying clothing. Being very aware that in order to be a functional member of society, you must wear clothes, I rely heavily on used items that are passed on from friends and relatives, taking only what I need, and donating the rest; wearing and repairing them until replacement is necessary.
With autumn upon us, I was so fortunate to obtain an old white sweater. It is true that beggars certainly should not be choosers, however, I never quite saw myself as the white sweater type. Later that evening, while cutting up beets for dinner, the idea came to me: why not give natural dyeing a try?
Thankfully, there is plenty of information across the internet on this topic, although due to the very nature of dyeing with plants, there is a fair amount of improvisation required.
Two websites that proved to most helpful and inspirational were The Joy of Handspinning and Naturally Dyeing. All in all, the project cost me about $6.
I had wanted to share this experience with anyone who might be interested in experimenting with natural dyeing. It is all trial and error, and there are certainly more efficient ways of doing this.
The growing season is coming to an end, so I cut mostly dead and half dead flowers (this batch was echinacea and black eyed susans). Upon bringing them home, I made sure to give the batch a good rinse to clean off any dirt, and to help relocate any little bugs whose lives I may have disrupted in the process.
Then it went a little something like this:
Break up the flowers and leaves and pack them into a measuring cup. I used equal amounts of water and flowers, which ended up being about 12 cups of each.
Bring the mixture to a slow boil, and remove from heat. Letting it steep over night.
In the morning, strain the liquid to remove the flower parts.
Then using cheese cloth (in this case, rubber band and paper towels) strain the liquid again to remove the finer particles.
The dye is ready!
To prepare the fabric (this particular sweater was 100% cotton). Take 2 oz. of alum and 0.5 oz of cream of tartar (both of which can be found in the spice aisle of most super markets) and mix them together with a little warm water. Add this mixture to about 2 gallons of water. Place the fabric in the water and simmer.
Simmer for about an hour, and remove from heat.
(I left the sweater in the pot for a half longer, but only because I got distracted.)
Remove the the sweater from the water, and give a quick rinse.
At this point, I realized that my dye bath was a little small, so I ended up adding more water to it (about 1 gallon of water and 0.75 gallon of the dye). Then, added the sweater and let it sit on very low heat for three hours, gently stirring every 30 minutes.
Leave it in this mixture until you have your desired tone, but keep in mind that after it is washed and dried, it will end up being two shades lighter… Here are some tones on watercolor paper, strictly from
leaving it submerged for various times…
leaving it submerged for various times…
I had diluted the the dye so much, that it took a bit longer, and came out a bit light. All in all it was such a wonderful experience. Once again, if you are interested in natural dyeing, do research and have no expectations.
Look at this strapping young lad in that fantastic beige sweater! How can such a gentleman possibly be single?? (once again, you will have to ask for the long version of the story)
What did we learn from all of this… making dye is tons of fun, and so why stop at clothes?! I have been making some small jars of dye each day, and sampling it on paper. These little guys are a combination of tarragon (the yellow/green) and beet skins (the tints of red). Pretty hard to tell from this picture though…