Wednesday, August 3, 2011

if it's worth doing, it's worth doing half-arsed and learning from the process

In Sydney, I was super-excited to go to the awesome bookshop Kinokuniya. I would have spent hours there poring over their selection of Japanese pattern books and crafty booky goodness, only I had the three kids with me and they had chosen their books and were not at all interested in mine.

I did however manage to hastily select this beautiful book, and get all excited about dyeing my own fabrics using plants.

When I have a new crafty notion, I want to jump straight in. Make do. Make it up. Whatever.
Dyeing with coffee sounded like an excellent place to start. We make heaps of coffee grounds at home, and apparently because coffee contains tannins, these act as a natural 'mordant' i.e. binder of colour to fibre. I had an old white top that would do for an experiment.
I didn't soak the fabric for an hour or more like you're supposed to. Too impatient.

Just plunged it into a saucepan with cold water and a heap of old coffee grounds, and gradually heated to a simmer. Simmered for 20 minutes then left to steep for about an hour. Wrung it out and rinsed it well.

The mordants that I speak of? One recommended is alum, or aluminium sulphate.
Deodorant? Full of aluminium.
Old white top? Full of deodorant.
eww! I post this, you understand, in the interests of better crafting
In fact I grabbed it out of my drawer, where (gulp) it might have gone back after a light wear and not even been freshly washed.
yep, that's probably even deodorant that got onto the bottom when I pulled it over my head
Poor old white top. On the upside, it certainly demonstrates the effectiveness of using a mordant.
Live and learn.
(Am excited about possibilities of dyeing with red cabbage though, and looking forward to trying with some untainted, fresh, soaked fabric!)

- Jane x


  1. All trial and error with dyeing as it's so unpredictable! But fun. I had a tablecloth do the same thing. I borrowed that book from the library and really enjoyed it. I did a blog post on it awhile back.

  2. Love Kinokuniya and empathize with crafty enthusiasm gone weird. Live and learn.

  3. Bugger! Good in theory I suppose.

  4. Thanks for the empathy :-) When the top dried, the good parts were a very lovely soft, warm pale brown so I think there will be more coffee dyeing in future... just with a bit more forethought!

  5. Hilarious! I'm glad I'm not the only one who rushes into new projects (and puts "lightly worn" tops back in the drawer)!

  6. Oh dear. As far as "lightly worn" tops (probably with deodorant still on, let's face it!), I'm right there with you! It does look quite "antiqued." How did it turn out dry? After a first wash? I wouldn't be surprised if, without mordant, most of that first dye just washed out ...


Hey, I would really love to know what you think. Go on!

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