01 Dec

April 14 – Off the Rack: Simple Fabric Dyeing

Hand Dye 3
Hand Dye 2
Hand Dye 1
History Lab dabbles in

Making Dyed and Patterned Fabric

Sunday, April 14th, 1PM to 4PM – FREE

Printed, dyed, woven, spun, embroidered–the list goes on: what you wear depends on what you can do to turn cotton, wool, silk, linen, and synthetics into finished fabric. But what is life like when dyed and patterned fabric is scarce or even unavailable?

Seamstresses accustomed themselves to being creative and frugal; quilts in our textile collection incorporate flour sacks, appliqué patterns, and even painted designs. Here in the lab, we tackled the project of turning ordinary cloth into something more interesting using simple techniques and materials.

How does it work?

Modern, commercial dyeing uses many toxic chemicals to produce vibrant, permanent colors that don’t run in the wash. We’ll prepare our own nontoxic, food-based dyes–recipes available, crafters!– for this project and see how they measure up to the colors we’re used to seeing. Inquiring dyers might even experiment with different mordants (ingredients that improve the color and/or permanence of the finished fabric; ours will be food based and/or nontoxic) or with dyeing without mordants at all.

What do I bring?

Because this workshop involves food-based materials that are well-known for staining clothes, wear clothing that won’t mind a few stains and blotches.

We’ll provide scraps of different fabrics along with all of the dyes and materials you’ll need. Have a small item (like a handkerchief, small T-shirt, or a pair of socks) you’d like to dye? Bring it along! Dyers will have a chance to try out simple tub dyeing, twist dyeing, or printing using simple stamps to create a pattern or design. Dyers with more time can also craft a simple, braided rag rug with dyed fabric scraps (allow 2 hours for this advanced activity). Did we mention that we’ll have plain handkerchiefs and our T-shirts (adult sizes only for now) for sale to benefit the museum?

Questions about this or any other event at the Neill-Cochran House? We’re here to help!