Monday, September 13, 2010

Be - troo - to - me: dyeing for pink

Step 1: soaking pre-washed calico in boiling water and vinegar.
 I am suddenly busy at University with my schedule not quite finalised. Thank you for comments to my last post. As soon as I am in a routine I will answer people's kind comments to regular posts, but for now I will address Nandas question regarding beetroot dyeing. Here is a synopsis of my journey to dye some calico pink for the backing cloth for 'Bluebird in the Early Morning' (Janet Bolton). Step One (above) is soaking fabric in water and vinegar - apparently vinegar helps with obtaining reddish colors.

Step 2: simmering beetroot leaves and beetroot in water. Then add fabric.
I added the fabric and simmered the pot for about fifteen minutes. I left the fabric soaking in beetrrot water for twenty four hours, dried it in the sun, ironed it. This is what it looked like after ironing:

Step 3: ironed cloth after drying - this has not been rinsed at all yet.
At this stage I was quite excited because it was such a beautiful, subtle, yet rich pink colour. However, to my dismay,when I rinsed the fabric in warm water with detergent virtually all pink hue disappeared. I decided to repeat the process with the same cloth, hoping to achieve greater depth of colour.
Step 4: I repeated the whole dyeing procedure with the addition of a handful of salt.
This is a lovely, more even, colouring and I was hopeful that the addition of salt may have helped keep the colour fast. However I was to witness colour flowing over my fingers and down the sink as I rinsed it. But this time I did not use detergent, just hot water and certainly less dye was lost than the first time. This is how it finally looked after the two outlined dyeings, soakings, dryings and rinsings:
Step 5: after final rinsing and ironing.
The dyed cloth will form the small edging around the storycloth.
It has turned out to be a very subtle dusky pink hue which is quite beautiful and reminiscent of early morning light. It will work beautifully as backing cloth to 'Bluebird in the Early Morning'.  However I am mystifed as to how to retain vivid pink colours on dyed cloth. Linen is probably more receptive than cotton calico; and I wonder if  alum would be effective. However, despite my searches in local supermarkets (British Columbia) I have not been able to find alum for purchase. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

At close of needle yesterday I had attached a sheep and cat to a small cloth. More on that later.

Happy stitching, Gilly


  1. i tried dyeing fabric with beets and used alum as the mordant and did not have good luck. the only fabric that consistently picks up good pink or red color for me is wool. i still will be trying it with vinegar. i have also heard that some people put a dab of vinegar in with the fabric and the beets as well. lots of experimenting until i find the right mix.

  2. i've just started reading jb's book but it looks good. i'm in the middle of so many things that it will be a while before i can pick it up and read it through.

  3. you might need to read India's book Eco Colour to see how to dye cotton fabrics.

  4. thank you for answering my question, gilly. the color you obtained was beautiful and actually quite lovely for an early morning. have you tried any spice stores on line for finding alum? also i saw some in art media, a local art store but they have an online store and it carries alum. if you have trouble let me know and i will post you some.

  5. I've read more than one place that beets are not color fast...but who knows, maybe there is just some combination. If you come into the US you'll be able to find alum in the spice section of most grocery stores.

  6. Thank you all for your comments and generous advice. I have some india info coming to me from my wonderful Mum. Gillyx

  7. the Japanese have for thousands of years understood the importance of a protein mordant [soy] on cellulose fibres
    they also practiced the habit of [a] allowing the mordant time to cure on the cloth before dyeing [b] allowing the dye to cure in the cloth before rinsing
    i avoid modern detergents where possible [with exception of EcoCtore woolwash] as they contain chemicals that can radically change colour as well as bleaches that will remove it...