Thursday, February 7, 2013

We're all gonna dye!

Paper folding tie-dyeing with all natural dyes

This was simply one of the most fun days I've had with my three girls at home. It was a snow day and they were aged 2, 4 and 6 and could all participate at their own level. There was a certain amount of prepwork involved on my part, namely getting the dyes ready. Older kids could participate more, I suspect!

Purple - Blue- Green:
I shredded about 1/3 of a smallish head of red cabbage and boiled it in just enough water to cover it, until it was very soft but not yet falling apart. Then squeezed out and discarded the solids.

This is the very fun science bit of the project: The resulting liquid is an excellent color pH indicator. Add some baking soda to some of it, white vinegar to some in another cup, and prepare to be amazed! The kids had a very fun time making their own custom colors, and learning that you could even go back and forth between purple and green (albeit you keep diluting the dye, by adding extra liquid). Chemistry is fun! How many drops of vinegar equals 1/8 tsp baking soda? Or try lemon juice?

Yellow: Infusion of turmeric, same process as the henna. Made some strong green tea also.

Red: Boiled peeled beets, sliced thinly, just about covered in water. Squeeze out and discard solids.

Browns: I made some strong black tea, and tried infusions two kinds of henna. Use 2-3 tsp of henna for 1/2 cup of boiling water, steep for a while, then filter through a coffee filter to get rid of the fine powder. I suspect onion peels would give good results but I didn't have any.

Then, take stock of any white or very pale color paper you have stashed away and do dip tests on small pieces to see which ones hold the dyes best. We ended up settling on some very slightly gray tissue paper that came as padding in some online purchase.... reuse! recycle! 

Cut in handy pieces, about the size of a large postcard is good for smaller kids, bigger pieces can make wrapping paper.
Folding it in simple patterns such as a zig-zag accordion works, but you can get fancies as shown much better here  or here than I could document. You get a semicircle by creasing accordion style in such a way that all the creases meet in one spot on one side (am I making any sense?). I'm sorry I don't have step-by-step photos but at this point, things got a bit intense with 3 little kids trying to get their fingers into the dyes as fast as possible....

Once the paper is folded - and for my 2yo, free-style folding worked totally fine, dip corners into the different dyes until the pieces is well covered in color. If you have a hard time dipping parts of the paper, use a paint brush with dye to saturate the folded paper through all layers.
Now it helps to let that sit for a bit, to let the colors penetrate the paper more. Then VERY VERY gently unfold and lay down to dry completely.

After drying, you can iron them on low to flatten them out for use in greeting card decorations, valentines (what we did), and even wrapping paper (for bigger pieces).

It's also possible to use the dyes like paints with a paintbrush, another good option for smaller children (and for touch-up!).

Here's a bit of a gallery....

We've learned that the cabbage and beet really color the best, and last the longest over the next few weeks. Expect pastel colors and you won't be disappointed. If you want lasting blasts of color, I'm fairly certain food coloring would work fine. That said, the kids had the most fun with the cabbage juice!

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