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Dye Plants and Dyeing

Dyeing materials with plants is an ancient art practiced since biblical times. There are many plant materials that can be used for dyeing yarns and materials: roots, bark, leaves, berries, seeds, twigs, branches, tubers, and nuthulls, each capable of producing a range of colors with various mordants and yarns. In addition, when properly applied, natural dyes are fast, resisting fading due to exposure to sunlight.

Although there are many recipes for natural dyes, this experiment will only be concerned with a simple recipe for the preparation of a dye bath and the use or mordants to provide a variation in colors.

Mordants are chemical additives that sometimes help a fiber accept a dye that it might otherwise reject. (The word mordant comes from the Latin “morders” which means “to bite”)

Although you will be doing this process as a laboratory exercise, it is, not necessary to work in a laboratory or with highly technical equipment to do natural dyeing. You can easily work on a kitchen range, household-type hot plate or even an open fire and get equally good results. Remember to use soft water and utensils made of glass, stainless steel or enamel in order to get true colors. Don’t forget to protect your hands with rubber gloves to prevent dye stains and to prevent excessive exposure to mordants.

Safety Precautions

Wear goggles at all times in the laboratory.
Wear rubber or plastic gloves when working with mordants and dye baths.
All the mordants used in this experiment can cause minor respiratory irritations if inhaled and possible mild skin irritation. In the event of skin contact, wash the affected areas with water.

Disposal

Dispose of all mordant solutions in the containers provided in the laboratory.
Solutions of natural plant dyes can be poured down the drain with running water.

Materials Needed

400-mL beakers
Glass stirring rod
Funnel
Filter paper
Forceps or tongs
Beaker tongs
Alum, aluminum potassium sulfate, KAl(SO4)212 H2O
Cream of tartar – potassium bitartrate, KHC2H4O6
Iron (II) sulfate, FeSO47H2O
Tin (II) chloride, SnCl2
Potassium dichromate, K2Cr2O7
Suggested plant material: onion skins (red or yellow); marigold flowers; snapdragons; zinnia; tomato vines, coffee and tea
2 x 5 cm strips of cotton, wool, and silk

Procedure

Preparation of dye bath

Add enough plant material to a 400-mL beaker to cover the bottom, (at least 10 g). Add 50 mL of distilled or deionized water (or enough to cover the plant material).
Heat the mixture to boiling and boil it for about 20 minutes. Occasionally add distilled water to replace any water that boiled away.
Filter the hot solution and discard any plant material left in the filter paper.
Dilute the filtered solution with distilled water to 200 mL.

Preparing the cloth for dyeing

Weigh out 0.3 grams of aluminum potassium sulfate and add to a 400-mL beaker. Weigh out 0.1 gram of potassium bitartrate and combine it with the alum. Add 100 mL of distilled water to the beaker.
Add 1 strip each of cotton, wool, and silk to the solution and heat to boiling. Remove the solution from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
Remove the cloth strips and press the excess solution from it. The cloth is now ready for dyeing.
Repeat the above procedure using 0 .2 grams of iron (II) sulfate in 100 mL of distilled water.
Repeat the above procedure using 0.2 grams of tin (II) chloride in 100 mL of distilled water.
Repeat the above procedure using 0.2 grams of potassium dichromate in 100 mL of distilled water.

Dyeing the Cloth

Heat the dye bath to boiling and lower the heat to maintain it at a simmer.
Add the three strips of material that were treated with the alum-cream of tartar mordant and continue to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
Remove the cloth strips from the dye bath and rinse them in a beaker of hot distilled water. Then repeat the rinse in a beaker of room temperature distilled water, continue to rinse until no more color is coming from the material.

Label the cloth immediately with name of plant material used and the mordant.
Repeat the dyeing process using the same dye bath and the material treated with the iron (II) sulfate.
Repeat the dyeing process using the same dye bath and the material treated with the tin (II) chloride.
Repeat the dyeing process using the same dye bath and the material treated with the potassium dichromate.
Repeat the dyeing process using the same dye bath and some cloth strips that have been wetted with distilled water. (Press out excess water.)

Ranger Digest VII

A SOLDIER’S GUIDE TO LEARNING THE TRICKS OF THE TRADE The original “no bullshit” soldier’s handbooks, loaded with tips, tricks and ideas on how to live, thrive and stay comfortable in a military outdoor environment through field expedient know-how. From how to take a dump in the woods, improvise/modify or improve military and civilian outdoor gear, combat survival techniques, reducing field boredom, leadership tips, jokes and much more.

NEWLY REVISED and UPDATED 2017 EDITION This is the first of two collections that compile all the original 9 volumes into a new ‘Complete and Newly Revised Edition’. NOT your typical boring military field manual, these volumes contain info that will keep you one step ahead of your average soldier. Rangers lead the way! This newly revised edition of the first five of nine volumes, adds updated equipment info, new suppliers (now with web links) and much more.

“As a former US Army Ranger, Drill Instructor and Advisor/Trainer to the Bosnia & Herzegovina Army (1996-97) under the US State Department “Train & Equip Program”. I have always enjoyed sharing with soldiers my personal experiences, tips, tricks and ideas in how to survive & thrive in the outdoors. And although I’ve been retired from the United States Army since January 1993, I am still doing what I like best – teaching & training soldiers. But not in a class room but through a series of books called THE RANGER DIGESTS.

Now before I decided to self-publish these books I use to forward all my tips, tricks and ideas to the Department of the Army. But the only thing I ever received back were letters saying, “…sorry, not feasible for military outdoor field conditions.” Well since the Army wasn’t interested in my ideas, I then decided to write a book about my tips & tricks and try to market them to the troops myself. After all, when it comes to “common sense” and “field craft ingenuity” the troops know more about this stuff than some ‘chair-borne’ colonel or general sitting behind his nice cozy desk at the Pentagon.”

Cloudburst: Handbook of Rural Skills and Technology

Cloudburst is a book born of people’s experiences; people who are finding ways of living harmoniously with nature rather than exploiting it. It is hoped that this book will provide the means for other people to live similarly. Cloudburst was compiled fitfully, with no deadlines, in no hurry. It grew slowly, in stages, in the hours not taken by the daily duties which a rural existence demands.

Contents include: The 16ft. Personal Dome * Splitting shakes * Pit Privies * How to Store Your Fruits and Veggies * Poultry House * Sauna * Harnessing the Small Stream * Water Wheel Design * The Michell Turbine * A Wooden Undershot Wheel * A Wooden Overshot Wheel * A Homemade Windmill * Frost Damage Prevention * Planting by the Signs and Phases of the Moon * Gravity Feed Water Supply * Beehive Defense * Beehive Construction * A Treadle Driven Wood Turning Lathe * How to Build an Indian Berry Picker * A Solar Dryer * How to Build a Juice Press * Preserving Juices * The Smoke Curing of Fish * How to Salt Fish * Cheese Making * Rural Water Works * A Hand Operated Washing Machine * Creating Recycling * And about that butter * Practical Alchemy and other Affairs of the Homestead * How to build a Compost Shredder

Ranger Digest IX

The original “no b*llsh*t” soldier’s handbooks, loaded with tips, tricks and ideas on how to live, thrive and stay comfortable in a military outdoor environment through field expedient know-how. From how to take a dump in the woods, improvise/modify or improve military and civilian outdoor gear, combat survival techniques, reducing field boredom, leadership tips, jokes and much more.

Ranger Digest VIII

A SOLDIER’S GUIDE TO LEARNING THE TRICKS OF THE TRADE The original “no bullshit” soldier’s handbooks, loaded with tips, tricks and ideas on how to live, thrive and stay comfortable in a military outdoor environment through field expedient know-how. From how to take a dump in the woods, improvise/modify or improve military and civilian outdoor gear, combat survival techniques, reducing field boredom, leadership tips, jokes and much more.

NEWLY REVISED and UPDATED 2017 EDITION This is the first of two collections that compile all the original 9 volumes into a new ‘Complete and Newly Revised Edition’. NOT your typical boring military field manual, these volumes contain info that will keep you one step ahead of your average soldier. Rangers lead the way! This newly revised edition of the first five of nine volumes, adds updated equipment info, new suppliers (now with web links) and much more.

“As a former US Army Ranger, Drill Instructor and Advisor/Trainer to the Bosnia & Herzegovina Army (1996-97) under the US State Department “Train & Equip Program”. I have always enjoyed sharing with soldiers my personal experiences, tips, tricks and ideas in how to survive & thrive in the outdoors. And although I’ve been retired from the United States Army since January 1993, I am still doing what I like best – teaching & training soldiers. But not in a class room but through a series of books called THE RANGER DIGESTS.

Now before I decided to self-publish these books I use to forward all my tips, tricks and ideas to the Department of the Army. But the only thing I ever received back were letters saying, “…sorry, not feasible for military outdoor field conditions.” Well since the Army wasn’t interested in my ideas, I then decided to write a book about my tips & tricks and try to market them to the troops myself. After all, when it comes to “common sense” and “field craft ingenuity” the troops know more about this stuff than some ‘chair-borne’ colonel or general sitting behind his nice cozy desk at the Pentagon.”