Sunday, July 21, 2013

Natural Dye Experiment: Black Beans

I've been trying lots of new plants for natural dyes for my installation.  Between the river trail and the nearby markets the Strip District of Pittsburgh provides a bounty of color.  Even so, getting a nice true strong green is very difficult.  My best chance is going to be getting a blue and over dying with yellow.  So I've been experimenting with black bean soaking water and getting good results. Below are some images of the process using a silk scarf:

First I soak black turtle beans in water over night. I use about twice as much water as black beans, and stir ever so often as I walk by. Then I scoop the now dark purple water off the beans and into a bucket to dye in.  (The beans made delicious burgers).

 I added a splash of vinegar to the dye bath, since silk as a protein fiber tends to take up color better in a slightly acidic bath.  This also has the effect of turning my dye a brighter, magenta purple.

And here is the scarf after spending the night in the cool black bean dye.  Very pretty magenta, but not the blue that I'm looking for.  To correct this I have to adjust the PH back to the other side by soaking it for a few minutes in a water and baking soda solution.  Its pretty amazing to watch actually, as the color changes right before my eyes.  Here it is after just a few seconds in the baking soda wash.

 The final color is this beautiful steel blue.

 I've got about a half a pound of wool still in the dye, since it doesn't take up color as quickly at cool temperatures as the silk.  It will spend another night in the dye, and once I take it out tomorrow I will be able to over dye the blue wool with some yellow from turmeric and hopefully get a nice range of greens for my installation.

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