Blue Castle Fiber Arts sent us one of their trial size natural dye kits for review that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. Something about dying with a natural dye instead of using synthetic chemicals makes me feel sort of warm and fuzzy inside. Their natural plant dyes come from India and are created using a fermentation process so that the dyes are more concentrated. Plants are used either singly or in combination to create vibrant, beautiful colors. The kit contains 6 different colors of plant dyes and it appears that the resulting shades you can acheive are endless depending on the fiber you are dying and the mordant you select. Each kit includes an herbal mordant which is what I used when dying 100 grams of BFL/Silk Roving that I used to test the kit.
I have to admit, I was a bit taken back by the scent coming from the package when I received it. The scent of these dyes resembles a strong parmesan cheese. I quickly wrapped it up in a plastic bag and didn’t remove the plastic until I started dying. The good news is that once you add water, the strong scent goes away, and when simmering some of them smell delightful – the Mango Yellow dye gives off a lovely pomegranate and turmeric smell. I only used a small amount of dye – about a tablespoon for each of the three colors I made for this roving. So, although the kit is called “trial size”, you could dye quite a lot of fiber with the amount provided!
I soaked my roving in the herbal mordant overnight then ran it through the drain/spin setting on my washing machine. Because I noticed that there were a lot of plant fibers from the mordant left on my roving, I wished that I had strained it before introducing the fiber. I decided to bring each of my dyes to a simmer to extract the color then strain the dye with a piece of muslin to eliminate as much of the plant fibers as possible.
I poured the strained dyes into squirt bottles and laid my roving onto several layers of plastic wrap that was overlapped about an inch to make about an 18″ wide by 5′ long piece of plastic wrap. I used my squirt bottles to place the dye exactly as I’d liked, then covered the roving with a top layer of plastic wrap. I folded both sides into the center, then rolled it lengthwise into a little jelly roll. Steamed for about 35 minute, let cool completely, then rinsed. When applying the dye, I was initially disappointed that the colors appeared to be so light on the fiber. I am used to fiber reactive dyes that show how dark they will be almost immediately. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that as the dye sat on the roving, the colors seemed to get darker and darker and by the time it was done steaming, it was more vivid than I’d expected.
Here is my finished roving dyed in Mango Yellow, Turkey Red and Navy Blue. I am so thrilled with how it turned out and will certainly have no problem using up the rest of my plant dye from Blue Castle Fiber. The necessity of pre-mordanting your fiber and preparing the dyes make them more labor intensive than fiber reactive dyes, but that wonderful warm and fuzzy feeling is worth a little extra time and effort.