How to: Dye fabric with Red Cabbage

As I was busy cooking red cabbage on Thursday evening, I found myself thinking about how it had the potential to be a brilliant natural dye and decided to experiment and put whatever was leftover to good use! So after a bit of research (particular thanks to Ruth at Twenty-first Century Lady) here are the very easy steps that I took in order to dye my fabric.

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1. Roughly chop the red cabbage into small pieces. (I used one cabbage, but two would have been better for the amount of fabric I dyed). Measure the pieces in a cup and put them into a large saucepan(s). For each cup of cabbage, you’ll need to add 2 cups of water to your saucepan.

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2. Bring the water to the boil and then turn down the heat, allowing it to simmer for an hour.  Then pour both the cabbage and dyed water into a bowl and allow to sit. The longer the cabbage remains in the water, the stronger the dye solution will be.

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3. Whilst the cabbage mixture is sitting, prepare your fabric (bear in mind that saucepan dyeing is only suitable for small pieces of fabrics). To do this, create a vinegar bath (the vinegar acts as a fixative) by adding 1 mug of vinegar (I used malt vinegar, because that’s what I had in my cupboard) and 4 mugs of water to a fresh saucepan. Use higher quantities but maintain the ratio if you’re using a larger pan. Bring to the boil, and add your fabric. I’d recommend rinsing the fabric in water first- this ensures that the vinegar solution absorbs evenly into the fabric. Allow the fabric to simmer for an hour. Afterwards, rinse the fabric in cold water again.

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4. Strain the cabbage mixture, using a colander, over a fresh saucepan (catching the ‘dye’). The (insipid looking) cabbage can now be discarded. Bring the dye bath to the boil and lower the heat to a simmer.

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5. Carefully lower your wet fabric into the simmering dye bath, stirring regularly to ensure the fabric is dyed evenly. Leave the fabric in the dye bath until you have achieved the desired colour (remember, it will be a lot lighter once it’s rinsed and dried). The longer the fabric is in the dye bath, the deeper the colour will be. (I left mine in the dye bath for just under an hour).

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6. Thoroughly rinse your fabric in cold water until the water runs clear. (The photo above was just before rinsing- lots of the colour came out during this process, so don’t be alarmed if this happens to you too!). Finally, leave to dry!

Here are some before and after shots of my fabrics…

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Using malt vinegar, rather than white, does effect the colour that you achieve, but as you can see the resulting green toned grey is beautifully subtle. Anyway, I love the result and I can’t wait to show you what I make with my dyed fabrics!

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