Introduction: Dyeing Industrial Felt With Foraged Plants

Picture of Dyeing Industrial Felt With Foraged Plants

This colorful object is a cake stand I designed in 123D Make . It's made of felt, local wood and dyes I extracted from plants. It's also a map of my favorite place to wander, Mt. Tamalpias in Marin County, CA. It's on this mountian and its environs where I gathered different species of plants to essentially make a map of the ecosystem through color and topography. The industrial felt took the color quite well and didn't change much in shape after being dried. In this iteration I prepared the felt for dye with Alum mordant. I gathered wild sage, French broom, eucalyptus, toyon and wild fennel to use at dye colors to represent the colors of the mountain. As you can see these colors make a rusty yellow mix of hues and when layered together they support the lovely Bay Laurel wood that sandwiches the material.

What you need:

foraged wild plants

a stainless steel dye pot

gloves

tongs

a long handle spoon

alum

a scale

a place to dry the felt

Step 1: Presoak & Mordant Bath

Picture of Presoak & Mordant Bath

Weigh your material dry then presoak your felt pieces in water overnight. The next day prepare the Alum mordant bath. Aluminum Sulfate can be used on all fibers. It brightens colors and fixes them.

To calculate how much mordant you need, weigh the material first while they are still dry. Make a note. Then presoak the fibers.

To make the solution:

WATER: 1000ml per 100 grams of crystal

ALUM: 8 percent alum per 100 grams (4 oz ) of dry fiber

CREME OF TARTAR: 7 percent cream of tartar per 100 grams ( 4 ounces) of dry fiber

Wear gloves. Boil water and dissolve the right amount of crystals for the correct amount of water needed for your fiber. For example for 100 grams of fiber you boil 1000ml of water —two pints. Stir with a long spoon. Add the wet fibers and simmer for one hour. Make sure the material stays submerged in the water completely. Let the fiber cool for at least 2 hours in the mordant. Take out and dry.

Step 2: Extract Dye From Plants

Picture of Extract Dye From Plants

Simmer the plants in water for about an hour to extract the dye then leave the mixture to cool overnight. The next day, strain the dye solution. Add the felt and simmer again for one hour to 80 minutes. For deeper shades let it sit overnight. The color will be in shades of yellow. If you use an iron mordant the color will turn a light green.

Let the bath cool, take out the fiber and lay or hang to dry.

This method can be used for:

California sagebrush for yellow tones and fennel for light green tones. Fennel may fade over time.

Eucalyptus is unpredictable in determining color and has a much longer processing time. Once you extract the dye, the fibers should simmer for at least 4 hours. Tones range from rust and orange to dark browns.

Step 3: Dye the Felt

Picture of Dye the Felt

Add the felt and simmer again for one hour to 80 minutes. For deeper shades let it sit overnight. The color will be in shades of yellow. If you use an iron mordant the color will turn a light green.

Let the bath cool, take out the fiber and lay or hang to dry. This method can be used for:

  • California sagebrush for yellow tones and fennel for light green tones. Fennel may fade over time.
  • Eucalyptus is unpredictable in determining color and has a much longer processing time. Once you extract the dye, the fibers should simmer for at least 4 hours. Tones range from rust and orange to dark browns.
  • Toyon gives a deep orange/rust

Step 4: References and Guides for Collecting and Dyeing With Plants

Wild Color The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes by Jenny Dean

Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes By Rebecca Burgess

The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes: Personalize Your Craft with Organic Colors from Acorns, Blackberries, Coffee, and Other Everyday Ingredients By Sasha Duerr

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