Natural Dyeing with Food Waste
Recently, I had the privilege to share some of my knowledge about Natural Dyes with extraordinary students in the Materials Program at Art Center in Pasadena. Today, I will share a piece of that lecture with you, as it centered around food waste that can be used as dye. As awareness and demand for sustainable fashion increases, we notice interest and research into natural dyes including food waste. Today, I will share with you 3 food waste that can be used to create natural color. These are one place to begin as you venture into the world of natural plant based color. Adequate preparation of the fibers: scouring and mordanting are essential steps prior to the application of any dyestuff. This improves colorfast and lightfast qualities of your pieces, which are essential ways to measure the long-lasting qualities of the dyed fibers. For those who are new to natural dyeing, I recommend starting with alum mordant, then adding a tannin. You will find that many of the food waste that I mention are already high in tannin, which makes these user friendly and alleviates that step in the dye process.
Avocado as dye
The first material that I would like to share is avocado. Avocado yields a range of colors from ballet pink to medium corals. You can use the seeds or skins. Make your avocado bath by simmering on low heat for 30 minutes, then strain out the pits and skins. Avocado is rich in tannins, so you can simply mordant then dye. When dyeing with something rich in tannin, the mordanting and tannin step can be combined with the dyeing step. One example of this would be dyeing with avocados, pomegranate or black tea. Follow this simple process to create a tannin bath or dye bath using avocado pits.
Avocado on silk makes pale peach/pinks, while on cotton it appears more coral. Silk over dyed with indigo is shown at left. Avocado on cotton shown at right by dyer Sharon Marshall.
Some dyers are surprised to discover that pomegranate will produce a range of golden hues. Prepare your pomegranate bath by simmering the rinds on on low heat for 30 minutes, then strain out the excess rinds. You can dip a sample into the dye bath to see what color you achieve. When pomegranates are not in season, I use rind powder to obtain medium shades at 10-15% the weight of the fiber. This means 15g per 100g of fiber. You might consider freezing or drying your rinds after you eat them.
Last but not least, I recommend experimenting with onion skins. In the photo below, I used yellow onion skins to create the dye bath. You might notice that they produce a warmer yellow hue that leans toward orange. When over-dyed with indigo it produces turquoise greens. Adding iron to the bath or dipping in iron also shifts the color to greens by shifting the ph.
As I mentioned in the lecture, the world of natural dyes is one part art and another part science. Some very precise dyers who love botany and chemistry will excel in those areas. My background in painting and color mixing informs my work in the field of natural color. Explore the world of natural food waste dyes and see where it takes you! It's a wonderful way to begin your exploration into natural dyeing and certainly to re-use what is around you. Feel free to share the pieces that you create with our community and tag me, so I can see!
HI, I'M HILARY.
This is where I share inspiration for a hand-crafted lifestyle from natural dye methods, textile surface techniques, and the best of contemporary California design. I love dreaming up products for an artful sustainable home. I offer workshops to inspire you to live your best life by connecting you to your creativity and others. I hope to meet you in person at one of my current craft workshops for creatives like you! Join my tribe to receive your first free video on Shibori folding with me.
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