It’s funny how sometimes you say you want to do something, and then there it is, just daring you to make good on your promise.
This past weekend at Maker Faire, I got my chance to make go on my desire to go deeper into textile explorations. In this case, with fabric dyeing.
Thanks to Yukako, a talented textile artist who has brought both Saori weaving and Bengala dyes to the U.S., I tried my hand an all-natural, mineral-based dyeing process known as Bengala.
It was love at first sight.
What makes Bengala dye so unique is its source. Bengala is made from ground minerals found in soil, rather than from plant or chemical sources. It is completely eco-friendly and, if prepared properly, resistant to UV rays and the sort of fading that general plagues fabrics. It also does not require hot water.
When I arrived, Yukako and her team gave me a length of white cotton fabric that had been pre-prepared. We the soaked the fabric in clean water, folded it in three strips, and folded those folds into triangles, just as my fellow attendee is doing in the photo above.
Then I selected two matching wooden shapes from a box of many; in my case, I chose triangles. We clamped the shapes down on either side with a C-clamp, leaving the edges of the fabric exposed.
Finally, I began dyeing the fabric by dipping the exposed portions in pots of dye, taking care to ensure the dye seeped all the way down to the seam where the folded fabric disappeared inside the clamped wood.
After I completed my dyeing, the fabric was clothes-pinned to an open-air line and allowed to dry for about forty-five minutes.
My colors actually came out a lot brighter than some of the other samples; Yukako told me it was because I had taken so much time to dye, double-dipping colors and enhancing them with a layer of other colors. Interestingly, dipping dyes in different pots did not seem to corrupt any of the colors.
And voila! A beautifully-dyed fabric piece made with some of the oldest pigments known to mankind. I ironed it at home to seal the color. Now, it’s ready for use in another craft project.
I immediately had lots of idea of how to use this piece of fabric. (Christmas present time is coming up, after all!) Additionally, I brought a kit of the dyes home and plan to experiment with them on some plain cotton fabrics I have. And did I mention it’s also well-suited to hand-spun yarn . . . something else I want to try, very soon?
I’m excited to have found this new technique and can’t wait to share it with you!
What about you? Have you found a new arts or crafts technique that’s got you excited? Share it here, and show off a photo of your work!