When I first thought about Earth Day this year I thought about bringing back my over-dye program again but this time doing it myself in my newly created natural dye corner of my garden. The more I worked on this I realized what I’d rather do is empower you to over-dye your own clothes using natural dyes. It’s a wonderful way to bring new life to clothing you already have but might be faded or you might be feeling tired of.
I know not everyone wants to dye themselves or don’t have the space to do so. If that is the case, you’re in luck because I recently learned about Green Matters Natural Dye Co who has started to offer a community indigo dye vat. I find this terribly exciting and try it out.
Now onto the DIY segment! I have created two different natural vats in my garden this year. The first one is indigo, which I think of as a classic when it comes to natural dyeing. I bought a 5 gallon container with a lid that could be water tight for my vat. I also decided to dig a hole and bury most of my vat so as to keep the temperature more regulated though you don’t need to do this. In truth I went for an iron based indigo vat but I’m not terribly happy with it and plan to change it to a fructose based indigo vat. Links at bottom for some sources.
The second vat I created is a fermented mixture that requires some time before it is ready. This one is for creating a dark gray color. I used another 5 gallon container with a lid for this one as well. I put in jaggery (a sort of solid form of molasses that you can purchase at a local Indian grocery store), rusted metal, and water, then closed the lid and let it sit for a month and a half. As you can see in the pictures, you can see when the fermentation really starts to take effect!
This fermented liquid will not dye any fabric on its own. First the fabric needs to be dyed with myrobalan powder, which is made from a fruit. It really is sort of magical to see the fabric and fermented liquid change color as you dye the myrobalan dyed garment in it. The longer you dip and dye in the fermented liquid the darker the gray will be and eventually you can get it black.
There are other natural dyes you can try, and note that some need hot water and others cold. Any container I use for dyeing I keep separate from my cooking pots and kitchen bowls. I created a little area for the vats and to dye in next to my house, off the side from my garden. It has been a lot of fun experimenting with different items to see what kind of results I get. The garment feels completely new in a different color and is a great way to cover stains as well. All of this I hope is a way to avoid garments ending up in landfills.
You can purchase myrobalan powder: here
This is a great resource for starting an indigo vat: here
I bought jaggery from a store in Berkeley called Viks Market
I asked my landlord for a box of rusty nails and metal
Green Matter Natural Dye Co Community Indigo Vat: here