Introduction: Crab Apple Fabric Dyeing

I have been noticing a lot of those tiny little red crab apples on trees lately, too tiny to eat but perfect for natural fabric dyeing! So here is a tutorial on the basics of dyeing fabric with crab apples. You will get a verily light,pleasant rosy red colour.

To those who have never dyed with natural materials, here is what you will need:

-2 large old pots ,ones that you will not cook in again in case what you are dyeing with is not good to ingest.

- silk and wool will take the dye the best, but I have gotten results from certain cottons and even rayon lace.I have not, however, gotten good results from canvas or heavier cottons, such as bed sheeting and muslin. But it takes practice and experimenting.

-soda ash ( sode bicarbonate) for the prep wash of the fabric.

-alum,water ,vinegar and cream of tartar to mordant the fabric.

-a lot of crab apples

- strainer

Step 1: Crab Apple Fabric Dyeing

  1. After You have collected your apples and removed all leaves , go ahead and dump them in your pot.
  2. Your going to heat and simmer in 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water.
  3. Make sure to use a lot of apples, I pretty much filled my pot until I had just enough water to cover them up.
  4. Cover and simmer for at least 1 hour. You will be leaving it to soak up the dye over night, as it cools.

In the meantime you can wash your fabrics in the washing machine with your soda ash. I use Arm and Hammer Washing Soda ,which can be found at your grocery store with the other laundry detergents. You don't have to dry it because you will just be dumping it in a pot anyways. This step makes sure there is no residue on the fabric to prevent it from soaking up the dye.

  1. After the fabric is washed, take a second pot and prepare your mordant bath. The mordant bath is something you do to kind of scour your fabric so that it will have better soaking abilities and to increase its colour fastness. You can get really technical with your mordant formula, but I just fill my pot again with 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar and add about 2 tablespoons of alum and 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar.This has been working for me so far,
  2. Heat this up and put you fabrics in it for 1 hour to simmer.

Step 2: Dyeing the Fabric

  1. After your apples have been soaking for awhile and you think you have gotten all the red out of them you can, go ahead and heat them up again for an hour just to push to a little further. Let it cool and then take your pot and strainer outside so you can strain the dye from the apples. I like to just use my mordanting pot so I only have to have the 2 pots on the go. Just put all your wet fabric in a plastic bucket or bin to wait.
  2. Put your strainer in your empty pot and then dump the apple bath through the strainer. I even mash the apples with my hand against the strainer, to push more dye out.
  3. Now you have your dye ready to go! Just heat it up again and throw your fabrics in. Keep in mind that the first in and out will receive the most saturated dye.Everything after will be lighter in colour.So if you have something special, do that first. Im still experimenting so I just dump a few things in at once and heat it covered for about an hour.
  4. Turn the heat of and let it cool overnight. You can even try heating it up again the next day,letting it cool and soak for a day or 2. Just stir it every now and then to ensure good coverage.

Step 3: Drying Your Pieces

So now you've waited as long as you can and are excited to see your results.

  1. Take your pot outside to where you will be hanging your pieces out to dry. I use my porch or even a couple ladders set up outside. Note that sunshine drys really fast but will maybe fade your resulting dye. Nightime may be better. Check the weather for chance of rain! thats not goons be good!
  2. Squeeze out your pieces and hang them to dry! Do not rinse!
  3. After they have dried thoroughly take them inside and put them in the dryer to help cure the dye.
  4. Now you can put them in the washer on delicate WITHOUT detergent.
  5. And again in the dryer.
  6. Now you can iron them out. All this heat is to help set the dye.

Step 4: Finished Product

So that was lot of work and a lot of electricity to create something supposedly natural and eco friendly.

This is true and a deterrent at first. But I think the connection with nature and making an organic and unpredictable product is what is nice about this practice. I find since I started doing this, (originally so I'd have nice subtle -coloured quilting fabrics to work with) I am super aware of the season and what plants surround me in my suburban neighbourhood. It relaxes me and I'm getting better at getting the result I want.

Sometimes I will take pieces that didn't come out that intense the first time, and over dye them with another material to get a variation of colour.Its really exciting! Its all about finding uses in the materials that surround you!

Happy Experimenting!

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