Six years ago I did two post on how to dye wool yarn with black beans. As I have moved into dyeing cotton fabric I thought I would write a little updated post. You can read here the part 1 and part 2. I basically I used exactly the same technique, the biggest difference was that because I was dyeing a cellulose fiber I mordanted with both tara powder and alum. There is a post I wrote about mordanting with tara powder here and with alum here.
I soaked a 450g bag of black beans in a 2 litre bucket of water for 12 hours. Then I strained the dye into a glass jar (I don’t think the glass jar is important though). I soaked the same beans in a new water for another 12 hours and strained the dye again to the glass jar.
THE FIRST DYE BATH
I did a basic triangle shibori fold and let it soak in the jar for 24 hours. Its good to put a plate or something underneath the jar if is not air thigh and its really full, mine did spill liquid out during the process.
The results do look darker here. After this I gave them a good rinse with water to get rid of all the excess dye. And then I let them dry. It’s good to remember that natural dyes do tend to fade a bit in the sunlight, and in my experience black bean dye is one of those. I always dry my materials inside to protected them from the sun.
I think the shibori worked out quite nicely!
Same dye bath, second dye
I’m sure this shibori has a name. Or maybe its tie dye? Leave a comment if you know. I did the same as last time. Let the bundle soak in the dye bath for 24 hours.
All and all I did three dyes in the same dye bath. Each time the results got a bit lighter. I have some black bean dyes from six years ago and the years have faded the colours a bit. Some natural dyes are like that, in my experience mainly vegetable dyes . That’s why I prefer a darker colour, so that the results last longer. I also did a little test with unmordanted fabric and it did work, not as well as mordanted fabric. My hypothesis is that the dye lasts time better when the fabric is mordanted, but I don’t have the evidence to support that yet.
There are many factors that play a role in what kind of colour you will get and I have not cracked all the secrets yet, but the main ones are:
BEANS: I have gotten very different results from different brands of beans grown in different parts of the world in different soils.
WATER: The pH-levels of your water effect a lot your dye results. If you want you can measure it with pH-indicator strips. Number 7 is the neutral pH level, pH less than 7 are acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline. You can change the pH to more acidic with vinegar, I use alum as an mordant which I believe is acidic as well so it all ready effects my results. Or if you wanna go more alkaline you could try baking soda. Or try using rainwater or spring water to get different results. It really is about experimenting.
FABRIC: This is an obvious one. The base colour of you fabric or yarn means a lot as well. In the past I have gotten really lovely dark blues with a yarn that was grey to begin with. Also the quality of the material, thin or thick etc. effects.
And in the end with natural dyes you just never know what you get.