Fabricademy: Week 4: Bio dyes & biofabrics

Posted in Barcelona, Courses, Textiles
Fabricademy: Week 4: Bio dyes & biofabrics

This class focused on researching materials and different naturally sourced dyes which are alternatives to the current synthetic shop-bought ones. We were able to explore a wide range; from natural dyes using found plants or powdered natural pigments and bacteria, to making bioplastics from animal and plant bases using the natural pigments to colour these, to experimental dyeing with bacteria.

We used DIY recipes from industry experts as well as those found on the internet. We also experimented on many materials.

Assignment 1: Produce at least one natural dye, modifying it’s colour and mordanting it in different ways to dye at least 2 different categories of fibres.

Assignment 2: Explore dyeing with bacteria of different fibres and bacteria

Assignment 1: 

Dyeing yarns and fabric have always been fun for me as I can remember doing so many tests at university. It was great that this was a group project too.

Group work 1 – Natural Dyes and pigments – 18th to 23rd October

Stage 1:

  • Source and find a selection of different fabrics.
    • We hade 5 fabrics and 2 fibres/yarns
  • Label these & note their properties
    • All our fabrics were plant based
    • Our yarns were…
  • Cut swatches, 10x10cm, of each of the fabrics
    • It was a good size to measure out and also to get the feel of the fabric
  • Make 10 sets of swatches to test on the various dyes
  • Separate these into stacks of each of the 5 fabrics and 2 yarns
  • Mordant all fabric swatches in one batch
    • We used the Alum mordant (link to PDF of recipes below)

I decided to collect the data on an Excel/Google Spreadsheet so that we could document our findings as a group and also as we continued throughout the week. Here is a screenshot of our scientific research, with a few details to add.

To view the PDF file, please click here.

We have rows of data which correspond to the names and weights of the fabrics  before and after, as well as columns showing the time they went into and out of the dye pots. We also took notes of the water temperature, weight of the natural pigments, size of swatches before and after and also the change in properties.

Stage 2:

  • Prepare the dyes.
  • Follow instructions from the Lecture PDF or online sources
  • Add in Fabric “stacks” to Dye pots as we went
    • We approximated the times we put these in and took them out of the pots based on lunch times and lectures!)
  • Leave for 24h+ (Further details on PDF)

See our gallery of photos below. I have also created a short video (via flipagram) running through our stages for ease of viewing

 Problem:  We discovered that we had missed the crucial step of scouring!

Despite this, many of the colours held fast and turned out to lovely shades.

Because of this, I decided to do start my own test using 100% cotton yarn and lace, using the scouring method.

Making plant dyes  (documentation to be finished)

One of my loves is being surrounded by nature, so I wanted to use the plant resources I had close to me.  In London, I would have had many more options from the garden , but here in Barcelona we have a terrace and a few Mediterranean plants growing. I chose rosemary, sage and aparagi *tbc*.

Group work 2 – Bio plastics

At the same time as the natural dyeing, we also made plans for doing some bioplastic experiments.

We had two options: Gelatine (pig based) or Aloe based; we did a mix of the two.

Here are some photos of the processes and results of our experiments. I have more to add!

Group work 3 – Kombucha Leather

Here we set up the leather to grow in this tray. I made a cover from waste fabric to protect the tray. We used

My own natural dye experiments

I was really interested to see what the variations between the different Mordants and modifiers were.

As an avid embroiderer, I decided to pick a 100% cotton yarn that I could separate into several hanks and make lots of tests with simultaneously. At the same Merceria (Haberdashery), I also found a cotton lace and thought it would be nice to test a pre-made piece of trim. I was inspired by the blog (X)

Here are my pre-planning stages:

  1. Buy 100% cotton yarn 100g & 1meter of lace
  2. Split yarn into 6 balls of 15g, 90g total
    • A leftover of 10g white cotton
  3. Create 6 hanks and split into 3 sets, 2 hanks in each
    • Also divide the lace into 6 pieces and distribute the same way
    • 2 hanks in each set would mean I could test two different dyes simultaneously.
    • Each set of 2 represents a different mordant:
      • Alum
      • Iron Liquor (made by Mo)
      • Vinegar (though it was stated in the lecture this was used only as a modifier, I found many blogs which stated it could potentially be used as natural mordant like salt is for berries. I actually followed this up with posting on a Facebook group which Prints with natural sources and have had some great responses.)
  4. See the gallery below for an easy way to wind a hank of yarn.
    • The reason you separate the threads like this is so they don’t tangle during the dyeing process.
    • * Note* I chose acrylic yarn to do this
    • I also colour coded the yarns using small pieces of different colour threads:
      • Pink & aqua = Alum
      • Pink & blue = Iron Liquor
      • Just pink = vinegar

Next steps

    • Choose dyes/ plants/ pigments
    1. Sage – enough leaves to fill a 450ml jar. I picked the sage from a planter on my terrace
    2. Pimenton or Hot pepper powder – 20g or half a standard jar.
      • I was hoping this would work like the Turmeric powder in our group tests (bright yellow colour), but as you will see, it gave a light colour.
  1. Create a recipe and plan for the dyeing stage. See my PDF here
  2. Get dyeing!

Please see image gallery below of my pre stages and link to the Tutorial video & stages.

(Link to PDF list of internet Natural Dyeing Sources)


Future ideas to do with Natural Dyeing and Bioplastics

  • I would like to experiment further with the mordants, especially copper which I did not yet try and it gives a bluer shade to some dyes.
  • Also the iron mordant i’d like to re-try with a stronger solution
  • I do want do some dip-dyeing and look at pattern results  for knitting and weaving.
  • Create some naturally dyed bio plastics:
    • Draw with it onto other bioplastic sheets, create patterns etc
    • Use it on biodegradeable fabrics like cotton
    • Use it as a connector between other fabrics, like a seam or sealing, especially when the bio-plastic is flexible

 What I have gained:

How this relates to my work and where I want to go in the future:

Assignment 2:  (to be added)

Dyeing with Bacteria. What a thought! But after watching having the lecture with Cecilia, all we wanted to do was go go grow!


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: