Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fabric Dye with Beets

Beets are just gorgeous, magenta gems. They are the upcycler's dream veg. After cooking and eating, there is all that ink-like beet-y juice left over to make art.
The beets take a bit of time to cook and the dividend is well worth it: beet ink (the juice before diluting) a beet dye bath and dinner. You can cook the beet greens as well. Dyeing with vegetables produces a subtle look. I tried cotton/poly blends but the color didn't take at all. Stick to natural fabrics.

Who says you can't eat colors!

Part One

Cut the greens off of the beets to just above the beet (save the leaves - you can steam or braise them: 15-30 minutes). Wrap the beets in foil (with a touch of olive oil). Bake at 350 degrees F for an hour (or so) until tender and let them cool.

While you're waiting for the beets to cook, choose some fabrics.

Peel the beets over a big bowl, adding all the garbage into the bowl. You can add some water to the bowl to make more dye. No rocket science here: the more water you add, the lighter your dye will be.
Here are some thrifted fabrics (poly blends - they didn't take the dye at all), upcycled linen, tea dyed cotton and muslin. Simply stir the fabrics to saturate them. You could dump the whole mess into a plastic zip bag at this point. Since there are veg peels in here, you might want to refrigerate the whole works if you think it will be more than 3-4 hours till you get back to it.

Mine sat in the frig for over 24 hours.
Part Two

Rinse the fabrics. An alarming amount of dye will leave them; remember that this results in a subtle look. Throw them in the dryer or hang to dry. Try tea dyeing and coffee dyeing. Different kinds of tea will produce different colors so experiment. I haven't tried paprika or curry powder but that should work as well.
Here a two samples.
On the left is very soft old linen. You can see the difference between the bottom fabric (undyed) and the top fabric (beet dyed).
The fabric on the right (the creamy one on the bottom) was tea dyed. The top fabric was a hunk of the tea dyed fabric dyed again with beets. This one is a very smooth cotton and the dyeing was more dramatic. The fabric at the bottom of the pic was white muslin beet dyed. Very subtle.

5 comments:

Bess said...

Love the eco-friendly approach. I always knew beets had to be good for something...

theirgrammy said...

I used beets for dyeing some fabric, as you suggested. I added 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar to the boiling beet water and then added the fabric. It looks great!
Thanks so much!
p.s. I set it in the dryer. Then ironed it.

71square said...

Do you think this dye could also be used as ink?

Cindy Vojnovic said...

Thank you so much for this post!

I hand-dye silk ribbon from which I make ribbon flowers, and I couldn't resist using some Thanksgiving leftover beets to dye some ribbon. In retrospect I should have looked up beet dying first, but I just chopped up a couple of beets, and boiled them for about a half hour four times over the last 24 hours, then this morning boiled the silk ribbon with the beets, let them sit until I got home, boiled again, and was shocked not to find "beet red" ribbon, but rather very subtle tints.

So after the fact I googled "dye with beets" and found your post. Does the vinegar make the dye more intense?

Nizhoni_Saffron said...

Oh wow, I knew my mother use to use all kinds of veggies to dye her wool. Growing up she use to plant a garden and use the different veggies. But I never got to ask her all her secrets before she passed on. The other thing is I know you can use saffron and red chile powder to dye. Thanks for posting this.