I’ve had some plain organic cotton in my stash for about half my life. I tried sewing as a teenager and planned to make an entire wardrobe out of organic cotton. Back then, you could pretty much only get organic cotton undyed (not that it’s that much better now), and I had big plans for dying it all myself with natural dyes. Unfortunately, reality got in the way. I found out that natural dyes are actually more toxic because of the heavy metal mordants, and sewing patterns were so frustrating because of all the extra ease, so I soon gave up on sewing altogether. But I just couldn’t part with my two bins of plain organic cotton, thinking, one day, one day!
Indie pattern companies have solved one half of the problem (thank you to all of the amazing designers out there!), so I decided to give dyeing another try so I could finally use up this fabric. I ordered some Fiber Reactive Procion dyes from Dharma Trading Co. (such a hippie store – I love it). The basic idea with these dyes is that they react to the fibers at a molecular level when the dye bath is made alkaline enough.
I started with a piece of color-grown green cotton. I meant to take a picture of this before I dyed it, but I forgot. It’s not so much a green as a light muddy greenish brown – not the nicest colour, in my opinion, but I prefer blues over earthy tones, so I’m biased. You can see a piece of color-grown brown in the picture above.
Anyway, I started the dyeing process in the washing machine, as they recommend for the most even results. I poured everything in and most of the water was below the basket so my piece of fabric was not fully submerged (I used 1 lb of fabric, 3 gallons of water). It wasn’t possible to pull it out at that point, so I decided to forge on. I set the washing machine to agitate, but after two minutes, it started draining! I tried to salvage it and reset, but the washing machine just kept on draining!
I didn’t know what to do at that point, so I tried to find a bucket to transfer the cloth and add more of everything else. The only bucket big enough had been sitting outside for ages and was beyond nasty! So my boyfriend ran out to buy a bucket while I stirred the fabric in what was left of the dye bath.
I started the process again in the new bucket, but I wasn’t sure how much dye to add since there was still some left in the fabric. I guessed 3/4 of the original amount. So I stirred the fabric for a solid hour (so boring!) but at least it was a nice day, so I could just sit on the back porch instead of in the basement watching the washing machine. I wish I had pictures of the process, but it was just so chaotic!
Here is the final product:
I’m amazed it actually turned out smooth and not blotchy, considering all that went wrong! The only thing I don’t like are the “lint-ball” type things all over the fabric. I can’t remember if the fabric was like that before, or if all the agitation caused it, but it makes the fabric look old, which I guess it is! I used Peacock Blue, but I have no idea how much 😮
I do plan to try this again sometime since it wasn’t so bad once the washing machine was out of the equation. I will at least dye the fabric I already have so that I can actually use it!
I could not be more excited about the Hawthorn sew-along! As soon as this pattern came out, I fell in love with it. It’s so “me”. Fitted bodice, flared skirt, and buttons (I’m one of those crazy people who actually prefer buttons to zippers)! There’s another contest for this pattern, but I’m not even going to think about that this time because I really want to take my time, follow the sew-along posts, and get this pattern right so I can make many more in the future. For my first version, I’m just going to follow the pattern exactly for version 3 (the sleeveless dress below) using the fabric I just dyed. I can’t wait!