Thursday, September 12, 2019

Second Thursday Tutorial: a continuation of dyeing fabric using cabbage and other kitchen items

This is a very long tutorial, or at least it seems to me it is.

Here are the supplies I plan to use (from left, back to front):
Baking soda
Chip brush 
Baking powder
Distilled water
Various cotton and cotton blend fabrics
Bleached muslin, 2 yards
Cheat sheet
Disposable gloves (lined with powder)

Salt added to tap water.

Cheesecloth that needs to be washed.
 Fabric that will cook in salt water (salt is the fixative, similar to a mordant) in the microwave for 20 minutes, as opposed to an hour on a hot stove.

Once muslin has been treated, it is ready to be used in a project.  These carrots are well past their prime, and I didn't feel uncomfortable donating them to this project.

Here they are wrapped in cheesecloth.

Once cooked, I squeezed out the excess water from the carrots.

The expected color is orange, but this isn't even worth losing fabric over.  Thank goodness I didn't use distilled water, either.  I'm starting out on a rather sad note.

Did you notice that the cheesecloth that held the carrots didn't change colors, either?

I've also added a couple of products to use with the cabbage.  One is rice vinegar.  It's brand new, but I'm sure I'll never use it for its intended use, so why not use it for art!

The items at the back of the table are modifiers.  A modifier, unlike a mordant, does not create a bond between the fiber and the dye.  It simply “modifies,” or changes the color, usually through a chemical reaction that occurs with changes in pH.  That's why I decided to use distilled water so all the modifiers would start from the same pH level.  The modifiers I plan to use are vinegar, ammonia, baking soda, and baking powder.

The other is my jar of rusty chain.  The rusty water is called rust liqueur, and can act as a mordant.  Fixatives and mordants are a bit different, in that a fixative is used on cotton and linens to help set the dye so the natural fiber doesn't lose color over time.  Salt is the fixative I used to treat my cotton muslin.

Mordants influence the color of the finished product. Copper, tin, alum, and rust liqueur are all mordants.  These form a bond between the dye and the fiber.  A majority of natural dyes won’t bind directly to the fiber.   You may get some color from natural dyes, but they will not be color fast.  A mordant, like a fixative, acts as the link between the dye and the fiber.

My cheesecloth

and my cotton fabric are now ready to accept

(my not yet prepared bleached muslin) the cabbage dye.

Granted, there is less cabbage than before, but still an ample amount for what I need.  I can't believe this cabbage has lasted at least a month and not gone bad.

Instead of tearing it, this time I sliced the cabbage.

After that, I chopped it further

and further.

I corralled all those bits of cabbage and encased them in cheesecloth.

I gathered the rest of my supplies

which included a 1/4 cup of salt and distilled water.   As I explained before, in order to keep the cabbage water pH neutral, I chose to cook the cabbage in distilled water.  The modifiers would all stand an equal chance of "modifying" the cabbage since I started with neutral water.  No matter where you live, or how pure your tap water is, it is bound to have some impurities and salts in it that will ultimately affect the outcome of this experiment.

You can cook your cabbage over a hot stove for at least an hour in a metal pot (remember mordants?) that will ultimately change the outcome of these experiments, or you can cook the cabbage in a glass bowl in the microwave for 20 minutes.  Your choice.  You know mine!

Once cool enough to handle, squeeze as much water out of the encased cabbage as possible.  I don't "squeeze" well, but I tried.  As an aside, I've never found disposable gloves that fit.

Now it's time to dye.  Place fabric that has been fixed with salt to the dye bath.

While the dye bath was cooking for 20 minutes in the microwave, or an hour on the stove, I spent that time getting all the cabbage out of the cheesecloth and rinsing it.   Be sure to place your spent cabbage in your compost pile.  That's even more important if you have used a mordant like iron, tin, or copper.

I was hoping the cabbage would change the muslin and the piece of cotton/poly bed sheet in the dye bath, but I had to wait until the fabric had dried.

It's amazing how different fabrics take this cabbage dye bath so differently.  The cheesecloth looked blue against the white fabric I laid down for comparison.  The cotton/poly bed sheet on the left, which I had stamped at some point looked better than the bleached muslin on the right.

Next, I siphoned off some of the dye bath and added baking soda, my first modifier.

It was supposed to turn the fabric blue, or at least enhance the blue in the dye.

Ah, now that it's cooked, it looks wonderful.  I can't wait for it to cool, so I can wash and dry it.

While waiting for the baking soda fabric to cool, I siphoned off a bit more of the dye bath

and added some rice vinegar to the bath.

The vinegar was supposed to turn the dye bath a lovely pink color.  So far, so good.

The next experiment started with a bit of the cabbage dye bath

to which I added baking powder.  It was supposed to fizz and it obviously did.

Another lovely shade of blue, but this time with a touch of teal.

More dye bath was added to another bowl

and clear ammonia was added to the bath.  Look at this change in color.  This is exciting.

This fabric, like all the others, was cooked in the microwave for 10 to 20 minutes*.  I just hope I don't lose a lot of color, because I love this yellow green.

*The "powder" modifiers needed a shorter amount of time since they absorbed so much of the liquid dye bath.  The "liquid" modifiers got the full 20 minutes.

Here are the results of my experiments.  The baking soda turned brown.  The reason some of it is purple is because I accidentally hung it too close to the pure cabbage dyed fabric while it was still wet.

Once dry, that lovely yellow green I got in the bowl was now brown.

I still had a tiny bit of the bath left.  I debated using baking soda or ammonia again.

In the end, I chose baking soda.  Isn't it lovely?  I even added a piece of old hankie that I suspect was mostly cotton.

It didn't matter.  When dry, I got the same results as I did the first time.  The baking soda dyed fabric was still brown!

As they sat on my kitchen table, all my fabrics turned lovely colors that I didn't see before.  Look at how the teal from the baking powder dyed fabric has become mottled with lavender.

Everything had changed, albeit some only slightly.

1.  I tried to control the pH by using distilled water.
2.  I tried to control the mordant by using glass bowls.
3.  The colors changed over time as they dried or sat on my kitchen table.

Was this a success?  You tell me.  I know for a fact, these modifiers changed the color of the original cabbage dye bath, sometimes fairly significantly.  If you judge the difference based on the color of the modified dye bath alone, it was a HUGE success.  If you judge this on the completed and dried fabrics, only time will tell.  I assure you I will be using these in my art quiltlets and visual journal covers, if only as backgrounds to aid the focal image or images.

Thank you beyond belief for sticking with me today.  This took over five days to finish, six if you count the failed carrot experiment.  I greatly appreciate your visit and hope this was helpful to those of you who enjoy dyeing fabric using veggies like cabbage.

Once this post goes live, you will find it on my Tutorials Page under Dyeing Fabric Using Cabbage.

20 thoughtful remarks:

Iris Flavia said...

You have me giggling here. So many words I had to look up!
Muslin cloth - I nearly fell off my chair! I misread it for "muslim" at first, oh, my! But Wiki says it really is from oriental origin.
Mordant we call Ätzmittel, quite different, too, and so on it went for me ;-)
The cabbage sure was a huge success, the carrots really did not what I´d expected, either!
Your project reminds me of school days where we colored t-shirts via the batik technique. A jump from the 80´s to the very good ole 70´s!

froebelsternchen said...

Wow, this is really a big success Elizabeth.Wonderful naturally dyed fabric to use in your amazing quiltlet art now. Big congrats on the results.
Happy Thursday!
Susi xxx

Valerie-Jael said...

Looks like you spent a lot of time and went to a lot of trouble to get your fabrics died in various colours. Glad you are happy with the results. I wouldn't have the patience of the space to be doing things like this in my little kitchen. Have a nice day, Valerie

aussie aNNie said...

You are amazing you know, what you use to get colour and all, well I give you a gold medal, like Valerie, the patience would hit me first, or lack of.x

kathyinozarks said...

dyeing is always so much fun isn't it? always a surprise for me how everything turns out from the dye pot-hope you had fun with this-I have not not much with modifiers-thanks for the tutorial

Barbara said...

This took me back to the days of watching Kathyinozarks doing dye projects. I never got into it a lot, but always enjoyed her results. I love your cabbage dye color, Elizabeth! As I was reading through your post, I started to wonder if the tea bags I sent would absorb some of those colors — a whole new craft! Lol! Oh,btw, I have never found disposable gloves that fit either! :()

A reminder for all who know Kathy, this is the day she and her husband check into the hospital for his heart surgery scheduled for tomorrow. Sending all good and healing thoughts have to help.

CJ Kennedy said...

Interesting process. I think you got some fabulous results.

butterfly said...

How fascinating... I can't believe how different the results are according to the varying modifier added. I love the soft pastel colours you've ended up with, and with all those distressed areas of varied staining and shading - it's just lovely. Thanks for sharing all your experimentation with us. I can't wait to have more space to start trying some eco-dying. It's simply not practicable where I live at the moment!
Alison x

Nancy said...

How interesting! Modifiers are a new concept to me, but what fun to see the variations. You had a very organized and methodical approach.

R's Rue said...


Sandra Cox said...

This is fascinating, Elizabeth. Who would have thought about cabbage for a dye. By the way, for one startled moment, I thought that was a purple brain. Ha.
You know if there're any community colleges near, I bet they'd love to have you teach this in Con Ed.

Divers and Sundry said...

A definite success! I love the colors you got, and they did surprise me. I was especially surprised the cloth didn't get darker, but I'd certainly not have been disappointed in these lovely shades :)

Caty said...

Wooowwwww I´m really impressed Elizabeth !!! You are definitively the queen of dyeing fabric !! I´m a simple pupil :) The results are magical, love the colours you have got. You are very patient , more than me, and I ´m sure we shall se great Artworks with those fabulous fabrics. Congratulations!
I wish you a very nice Friday, and send big hugssss

Jeanie said...

This is such a well documented tutorial, Elizabeth. I confess, when I saw the ammonia I was almost out of there because the smell is really bad for my lung disease and I just lose it! But I suppose one could skip that particular element. The purple cabbage looked a bit like a brain!

I think the results DO appear successful but that is really your call. I hope we'll be seeing how you use these!

da tabbies o trout towne said...

bleu N squiggles....iz it just uz....ore doez de cabbagez lookz like a brain !! :) ☺☺♥♥

Meggymay said...

Amazing results, I really love the colours of your fabrics, beautiful delicate shades. Your experiments and processes for this great tutorial must have taken so many hours in your days to complete, but you now have some lovely fabrics to use for your quiltlets.
Yvonne xx

RO said...

My goodness, this is simply fascinating and so clever! Your artsiness is the best! Hugs, RO

Anne (cornucopia) said...

I enjoy reading these experiment posts. I can't believe the cabbage didn't go bad after having it for a month. It's unfortunate the carrots didn't work: that would've been a nice orange color.

My name is Erika. said...

You ended up with some lovely colors. I like them a lot. They may not be bold but they have a lot of depth. And it is fascinating how adding various "ingredients" you get such different colors. I don't know all that much about dyeing cloth but this post taught me some more. Thanks for sharing. Hugs-Erika

pearshapedcrafting said...

Wow! Brilliant results and amazing patience Elizabeth! Chrisx