27 February 2014

Kitchen Scraps

with flare

Solar dyeing yarn with flowers, spices, roots, wood and food was so much fun, I wondered if it would work on fabric.


My solar dye pots are still frozen, but I can dye small things in clean spaghetti sauce jars just by setting the jars in the window for a few days. I made homemade soy yogurt from dried soy beans and used some of the milk from the process to mordant scrap PFD (prepared for dyeing) fabric pieces. The pastels I achieved were so exciting, I decided to do eight panels for my favorite skirt pattern in different shades of kitchen scraps.

skirt panels

I'd been collecting red onion skins since last summer, and there were more than enough to fill a spaghetti jar. I assumed that would be enough for one skirt panel. With yarn, I'd been able to achieve bright light green with red onion skin pigment. The reddish purple turns magically green in tap water. I thought if I did two panels, washing one in tap water and one in distilled water, I might get two different colors.

It worked!

Kitchen Scraps, a soon-to-be handkerchief-hemmed skirt dyed with, from right, black beans and red onion skins, hibiscus and red onion skins

Unfortunately, disaster struck when I, like a fool, hung the first three skirt panels to dry on (brand new, still coated) metal hangers. I should have known better. Iron is a mordant. It turns natural dyes "sad." It darkens them. It left its moody mark right across the most beautiful red onion skin panel!


Luckily, I had enough fabric left to cut one more panel. I'll use the striped panel for something else. I dyed with the same jar of red onion skin pigment one more time, and I was surprised to find the dye was still good as new.

I made more homemade refried beans from dried black beans, which means soaking the beans overnight in water and then using the resultant purple water for dyeing just by straining it off into a dye pot. I'd had disappointing results with black bean water on yarn last summer because I didn't know then how dryer heat affects the bean color. My gorgeous purple yarn turned gray.

With the onion skin shades, this skirt already is destined for special washing, so I decided it would be okay to repeat the multiple hue process with the bean water. I made four panels in the bean drain-off. White cotton in bean water becomes a pretty shade of pale lavender. Add a little vinegar, and you get blue. Add a little ammonia and you get teal green. Wash with hot water, and you get gray. Four more perfect skirt panel shades! And this time, I dried the panels on a plastic hanger.

Kitchen Scraps, a soon-to-be handkerchief-hemmed skirt dyed with, from left, black beans, black beans with ammonia, black beans with vinegar

Hibiscus tea is among my favorites. The color it makes on yarn is gorgeous. Pink in distilled or rain water, and blue in tap water. I now had eight panels. The dyeing process had taken nearly two weeks. The panels were sewn together in less than two hours, and that includes the back zipper. The handkerchief hem is challenging, but it was done in another hour. I made the skirt on a Sunday morning, and I wore it to church Sunday afternoon.

We had unexpected company while I was pinning the hem.


Yes, the washing will be interesting; I will try to keep it as clean as possible so it doesn't need frequent washing. And then it may become the world's first color-changing skirt. In the meantime, I will enjoy the heck out of wearing this fun skirt!

nearly perfect points

heavenly colors

kitchen scraps handkerchief hem skirt


  1. Wow, you just keep dying away at your bay. And that is an awesome shot of your company

  2. Just wait 'til spring, Pat! I've already been collecting empty pretzel jars at work, and I've already planted six things I hope to be able to to dye with once it warms up!

    PS: I really like that shot of my visitor, too!!!

  3. Oh, it's lovely. I like how the soft grey pulls everything together. How fascinating that the different types of water result in different shades.

    And what a shot through the sewing machine! :)

    1. Thank you, Sue! I love the pastel hues. I love wearing the skirt. And I love when deer trample my backyard... until I discover they're eating my flowers!!! :O


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