Posted on Leave a comment

Why Synthetic Dyes Cause Water Pollution – And The Types Of Solutions We Need To Find

Why Synthetic Dyes Cause Water Pollution And the Types of Solutions We Need To Find

In recent years, the harmful effects of the textile industry have been slowly revealed to the Western world. From enabling human trafficking in sweatshops to synthetic dyes being a major cause of water pollution, our consumer culture has wrecked havoc on humans and eco-systems alike. The solution, much like the problem, is complex and multi-faceted. Today, I want to talk about why synthetic dyes are one of the major causes of water pollution, explore the consequences that synthetic dyes have had on both human beings and the planet, explain why natural dyeing on a large scale is impractical and contains its own host of problems, and look into some possible solutions for our future that combine the sciences with the arts to address the cause of water pollution.

Synthetic Dyes Cause Water Pollution

Synthetic dyes were discovered in 1856 by 18-year-old William Henry Perkin, a chemist that was working on a cure for malaria.¹ This purple dye was given the name mauveine – from which we derive the name mauve.² While the color was not permanent, it sparked interest in the field of synthetic dyes and lead to the creation our current spectrum of colors.¹

Today, nearly all textile color comes from synthetic dyes. This is problematic because the Blacksmith Institute (in partnership with the UN) named synthetic dyes as one of the top 10 global polluters in 2012. ³ And to my knowledge, this did not change in 2020, and will likely not change in 2021 either. This ranking is based off of the DALYs or the Disability-Adjusted Life Years (aka: “the number of years lost due to early death, disability, or disease.” ⁴) The dye industry is believed to score at 220,000 – 430,000 DALYs – which is tragic for those who are directly impacted by this industry. ⁴ Synthetic dyes are one of the major causes of water pollution.

It is estimated that more than 1 million people (primarily in South Asia) are at risk from exposure to chemicals like chromium (a known carcinogen,) lead (exposure causes neurological, developmental and cardiovascular harm,) cadmium, sulfur, nitrates, chlorine compounds, arsenic, mercury, nickel, cobalt, etc. This exposure is primarily from water contamination when dye houses dump untreated waste water into the local water sources. It is believed that 17-20% of the total industrial water pollution is generated by textile dyeing. ⁵

In these industries, there is little to no accountability or incentive to do better. Waste water dumping happens anonymously and these industries thrive in their current regions because of a lack of oversight which allows them to have minimal overhead costs. This is appealing to large Western brands that are looking to keep their costs low. In China, around 70% of rivers are polluted and many of their citizens have no access to clean surface water. ⁶

In summary, there are 5 main issues with the dyes being used today: ⁷

  1. Excessive Water Waste: 6-9 trillion liters of water per year is used (and most of it is subsequently disposed of in toxic form) by the dye industry.
  2. Chemical Pollution: Chemicals are often dumped directly into the environment causing serious problems for humans and the local eco-systems. This is why synthetic dyes are one of the major causes of water pollution.
  3. Unemployment Risk with Change: While it is obvious that much change must happen, it must also be handled delicately so that those who are employed by these industries (which is mostly women) are not forced out of jobs and livelihoods.
  4. Hardwired Consumerism: The main driving factor behind these practices is Western brands demanding more products for less cost. This means that corners are being cut – in this case, the management of waste and the abandonment of best practice. Society as a whole needs to adopt a more circular economy mentality that reuses and repurposes waste rather than disposes of it.
  5. Ineffectiveness of Scaling Natural Dyes: I’ll discuss this in the next section. 7

Why Natural Dyes Aren’t the Solution to Water Pollution

By contrast, natural dyes have been around since 3500 BC. ⁵ On one hand, they seem promising to help the environment. After all, they are naturally occurring products in the earth that are usually derived from bark, leaves, wood chips, insects, flowers, lichen, shellfish, etc. ⁸ They also only work on natural fibers – eliminating the use of synthetic fabrics. (Another topic for another day.)

Using natural dyes, one can obtain almost any hue of color. However, duplicating those results can prove to be challenging or nearly impossible. Growing conditions, the health of the plants, the mineral content of the water, and many other variable factors can affect the color outcomes. Additionally, color-fastness with some natural dyes can be tricky, when compared with their synthetic dye counterparts. These inconsistencies would not bode well with our fast fashion culture. Other issues also arise when one tries to scale natural dyes to an industrial level.

Natural dyeing on a large scale would require huge amounts of farm land and water to grow and cultivate. This option would be taking land and water away from food agriculture. Also, many of these plants and insects are only found in certain regions of the world. The transportation of the raw materials would leave a very large carbon footprint. ⁶

Another aspect to consider is human rights. Historically, natural dyes have been the cause of horrific human exploitation, abuse, and appropriation. In an industry already rife with human rights abuses, it seems impossible to regulate the massive supply chains that would exist all over the world, if natural dyeing were to be industrialized. ⁶

Lastly, while natural dyeing uses natural materials as dyes, mineral salts are used as mordants to help adhere the dyes to the cloth fibers. When used appropriately, these mordants are safe and effective. However, appropriate use requires adequate education, willingness to comply, and an understanding of how to properly dispose of the mordants. The current dye industry has demonstrated that it cannot and/or will not properly dispose of dangerous chemicals, making this a poor option moving forward.

Natural dyes might not be the right option for large scale production, but they are still important art forms for artisans around the world! One of the ways that we, as consumers, can make a difference is by supporting these small studios and dyers in their art forms rather than the big corporations who are the driving forces behind the devastating effects of fast fashion.

As Mexican textile artist Porfirio Gutiérrez said, “Natural dyes were never meant for mass commercialism, they are for personal clothing and expression.” ⁷

Why Synthetic Dyes Cause Water Pollution And the Types of Solutions We Need to Find (Spoiler: Natural Dyes Won't Save The Day)

What is the Solution to this Cause of Water Pollution?

This is the million dollar question! No really, I was just speaking with another dyer and she noted that whoever finds a workable solution to this issue will likely find themselves to be a very wealthy individual! It’s true!

The solution has to be sustainable, has to fix the problems that our current dyes cause, and has to be easy and simple to implement into the already established dye house practices. ²

One possible solution that has been presented by a company called Colorifix is the use of microorganisms to transfer colors obtained from nature via synthetic biology. The methodology is above my pay grade, but you can read more about it below! ⁹

Another interesting company that I’ve discovered is We aRe SpinDye. While this company only works with polyester fabrics, they have found a method of fabric creation that utilizes recycled polyester. We aRe SpinDye’s dyeing process utilizes 75% less water than conventional methods by adding the dye to the step where the polyester pellets are melted down to be extruded into fibers. You can read more about them below! ¹⁰

Undoubtedly, there are countless scientists and visionaries who are exploring other means and methods to find a workable solution to this cause of water pollution. The pollution and harm that comes from the textile dyeing industry is multifaceted and will take a unique and complex answer! While that solution might not be fully developed, we can all make individual choices that can help tip the scales in the right direction.

What are real actions that will help? It might look like finding creative ways to use things you already own, borrowing and returning things you might need, swapping items with others, thrifting what you can’t get from borrowing/swapping, making what you can, and only buying what you cannot get from any of the other methods. ¹¹ When it’s necessary to buy new items, you can make the greatest impact by shopping small and local for quality items that can be used countless ways. This supports artisans and your own community!

This topic is important. We need to continue to address the things that cause water pollution. People’s lives and wellbeing is on the line. It’s time to pursue workable options and to make sacrifices in our consumer practices.

Help spread the word by sharing this post!

Sources

¹ Chemical and Synthetic Dyes by Robyne Williams

² This Company Thinks Bacteria Can Help Fix Fashion’s Water Pollution Problem by CNNstyle

³ Natural vs. Synthetic Dyes: The (Ill-Informed) Battle Continues by Amy Dufault

The World’s Most Polluting Industries by World Atlas

Top Ten Toxic Pollution Problems | 2012 | Source #10 – Dye Industry by worstpolluted.org

The True Cost of Colour: The Impact of Textile Dyes on Water Systems by Beth Ranson

5 Ways to Fix Fashion’s Biggest Pollution Problem: Dyes by Jess Cole

Natural Dyes by Sara J. Kadolph

Colorifix Solutions by Colorifix

¹⁰ Our Coloring Process by We aRe SpinDye

¹¹ Buyerarchy of Needs: Using What You Have, Borrowing and Swapping by Laurie Rivetto

Please feel free to reach out with any questions or comments!

Why Synthetic Dyes Cause Water Pollution And the Types of Solutions We Need to Find (Spoiler: Natural Dyes Won't Save The Day)


Posted on Leave a comment

Natural Dye Journal Entry 1: Madder Root

Natural Dye Journal Entry 1 - Madder Root

Natural Dye Journal Entries are my way of documenting parts of my natural dye journey! This post will reference more advanced dye topics/methods about the natural dye, madder root, without going into detail and explaining those parts for a new dyer. Do you have any questions? Please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email and I will answer it to the best of my abilities! If you are a dyer and have any suggestions or corrections for me, I would also love to hear from you! (And if you are looking for beginner guides/tutorials, please check this link here!)

Madder Root

Natural Dye: Madder Root

Madder is one of the oldest dyes around! It has been used throughout the European and Asian continents for centuries. In fact, there are preserved tapestries and textiles from the 16th and 17th center that still host beautiful and vibrant reds from madder dye. (Botanical Colors Blog)

Madder is considered the gold standard for obtaining red from natural dyes.

While madder is widely known and touted by the dyeing community, I have not had great luck with extracting a true red. In the past, I have at best achieved a coral or orange-red color. For this project, I was determined to get a beautiful and authentic red.

Madder Notes

DYE FORM:
Whole Madder Root (Rubia tinctorum)
SCOUR METHOD:
Soda Ash/Vinegar/Detergent
DYE SOURCE:
Botanical Colors
MORDANT/MODIFIER:
– Tannin (Tannic Acid from Chestnut Bark)
– Aluminum Acetate
– Wheat Bran (Post mordant bath)
WEIGHT OF FIBER:
100% WOF*
TYPE OF FIBER:
2 Pairs of Socks: 51% Hemp, 38% Organic Cotton, 11% Spandex
PROCEDURE:
I soaked the roots overnight in a warm bath that cooled to room temperature. I then dumped out this liquid to help eliminate the “yellows” from the roots.

Next, I added fresh tap water to the pot and raised the temperature to about 150*F for about 2 hours. Once the dye was extracted, I strained out the roots to use the red dye.

I suspended the resist-clamped hemp socks above the dye pot so that just the cuff was below the dye’s surface. Later, I also added a second pair that was fully submerged in the dye bath. The dye bath was kept around 150*F for about 1 hour. (At the time of this writing, some of the details of this process are escaping my memory. I may have left the socks in the dye pot overnight but cannot recall now.)

The socks were allowed to dry and were then rinsed and laundered. You can see the final results below. (Please note that the final photos show the socks after they were additionally bundle-dyed with additional dye stuff after the madder dye work was completed.)
SOURCES FOR PROCEDURE:
(Extraction Methods)
The Art and Science of Natural Dyes: Principles, Experiments, and Results (Book)
Botanical Color’s Website
– Maiwa’s Natural Dye Website
– Conversing with other dyers who have used and experimented with madder

OUTCOME

IMPRESSIONS

* While I measured out the WOF for 2 pairs of hemp socks, the truest red was obtained after my first dip/soak in the dye bath. This dip/soak dyed only about 1/2 of the sock’s cuff on 1 pair. (See photo for reference.) Because of this, my truest red would have an adjusted WOF of ~ 400%

While my initial results were a beautiful red, once rinsed/washed, the color faded to an orange red. I hope to continue to experiment with madder in the future to find a more sure fast way to obtain and retain a true red. I do wonder if the thickness of the hemp socks as well as the 11% spandex construction could have contributed to the final, muted colors.

NEXT TIME

The chestnut bark tannin is not a favorite of mine. Next time, I would like to use gallo tannin extract or even crushed gallnuts in my tannin bath to have a more neutral undertone.

I used whole madder roots in my dye bath without chopping or grinding them into smaller pieces. In the future, I will be sure to break them down to give the dye stuff a greater surface area from which to extract dye.

I would also like to experiment with madder extract at a future time.

One of my main goals for future madder experiments is to continue pursing a true red. I have been disappointed by the orange hues I have been achieving. It certainly seems that a very high WOF is necessary for the truest reds.

You can shop Naturally-Dyed Hemp Socks in my Behold by Borrowing Color Shop whenever they are in stock…

Natural Dye Journal Entry 1 - Madder Root
Posted on Leave a comment

3 Naturally Dyed Easter Egg Tutorials – Using Food Waste and Kitchen Scraps to Dye Eggs!

3 Naturally Dyed Easter Egg Tutorials

Spring is here! One of our favorite annual activities is dyeing Easter eggs with natural dyes. Eggs are the perfect reminder of the changing of seasons, of new birth, of the struggle before the victory… I love the lessons they can teach us. Today I want to show you how to make some of the best naturally dyed Easter eggs!

We will make naturally dyed Easter Eggs using food scraps and kitchen waste to create eco-friendly dyes.

naturally dyed Easter eggs on display

Today I want to share three simple natural egg dying tutorials with you. Many of you will already have these ingredients on hand. I think you will find that this is a delightful way to use up food waste in you kitchen!

You will need frozen or spoiled blueberries, yellow onion skin, red onion skin, vinegar, water, and eggs. You can find the simple instructions below…

Naturally Dyed Eater Egg Tutorial

I have provided direction for 3 different natural dyes, but your colors don’t have to end there! Consider what you have around you!

  • Do you have other scraps that might give color?
  • Perhaps purple cabbage, turmeric, beets, spring flowers, coffee, tea, etc? (I have not tried these myself, but this is the fun of experimenting!)
  • And from there – how can you shift or adjust colors with pH? If you add baking soda or additional vinegar to the dye bath, what happens?

The sky is the limit (and how many egg shells you can get your hands on! Haha!) You can also look for more egg dying ideas on Pinterest. I’ve even created an egg dyeing board that you can check out below!

Want to read more about Natural Dyes? Be sure to check out my FAQ page here!

Have you ever used natural dyes to color eggs? I’d love it if you would comment below with what you used and how it turned out! There is so much room for experimenting and playing with nature’s colors. I’d also love to hear from you if you try this tutorial! You can even tag me in your Instagram photos @borrowingcolor.

xo – Alex

3 Naturally Dyed Easter Egg Tutorials Using Kitchen Scraps and Waste!
Posted on Leave a comment

25 Open-Ended Play Gift Ideas (The Guide): Featuring Small Shops + Amazon!

Hi There, Friend!

My last post was all about Pretend Play and why it is so critical to healthy childhood development! In light of that post, I wanted to follow up with a open-ended toy gift guide! This guide will consist of small shop and box store ideas to appeal to all!

An open-ended plaything can be simply defined as a toy that has no “rules” and that is able to be played with in different ways – it should support a child’s imagination, not replace it. (How to Cultivate Pretend Play.)

The beauty of these kinds of toys is that they can be used in countless ways and in countless play scenerios. Open-ended playthings truly are the best “bang-for-your-buck!” As a small shop toy maker, I can say that many of us are committed to continue crafting toys that help our kids as they grow and develop. This is the beauty of shopping small and handmade!

And just a FYI, a lot of these ideas grow with the child so consider the age ranges below to be suggestions. But always be sure to reference the precise age range before purchasing for safety reasons.* 

**Some blog posts may include affiliate links to products that I love and trust (or links to similar items.) I may earn a small commission off of these links, but this does not affect the cost for you.**

Without further ado…

handmade doll, crocheted penguin, baby-friendly plush lion

Babies

  1. Small Shop: Opal and Fig
  2. Small Shop: Lewie and Berg Plush Crochet Toys
  3. Small Shop: Borrowing Color Baby-Friendly Plush Playthings
  4. Amazon: Wooden Stacking Stones
  5. Amazon: Soft Baby Dolls Set
  6. Amazon: Rainbow Wooden Semispheres
play silk, play mat, felt wand

Toddlers

  1. Small Shop: Feeding Pickle Activity Mats
  2. Small Shop: The Della Rose Boutique Wands
  3. Small Shop: Behold by Borrowing Color Play Silks
  4. Amazon: Waldorf Wooden Rocking Play
  5. Amazon: Wooden Animal Toy Trio
  6. Amazon: Loose Parts Play Set
  7. Amazon: Toddler Block Playset
peg dolls, hand made doll, plush playthings

Preschoolers

  1. Small Shop: Little Lu Beginnings Peg Dolls
  2. Small Shop: Urban Farm Dolls
  3. Small Shop: Borrowing Color Naturally-Dyed Plush Playthings(Releases November 21st at 8pm EST) 
  4. Amazon: Wooden Building Block Set
  5. Amazon: Nature Inspired Montessori Balancing and Stacking Blocks
  6. Amazon: Magna-Tiles
  7. Amazon: Climbing Cube and Tunnel
newborn doll, animal bonnet

School Age

  1. Small Shop: Kinland Co. Newborn-size Dolls
  2. Small Shop: Wildernaut Shop Animal Bonnets/Tails
  3. Amazon: LEGO Classic Large Creative Brick Box
  4. Amazon: Wooden Castle Dollhouse
  5. Amazon: Wooden Tool Toys + Pretend Play Toolbox 

I hope that this guide was helpful to you as you currate a play space in your home that encourages open-ended play!

It is important to me to support make-believe and independent play as much as possible, and I know it’s important to you too! Because of that, I always ensure that the plush playthings that I offer foster open-ended play scenarios that allow children to practice their social skills! That is the beauty of a 100% natural, non-plastic, non-battery operated toy.

Which Plaything is perfect for you?

Take the quiz below to find out!

Plush Plaything Quiz

Did you find this post about play helpful? You might want to take a look at my last post: How to Cultivate Pretend Play at Home (And why you want to!)

Well Friends, 

I hope that these ideas have helped you as you currate the playspaces within your home. If you want to find more inspo, follow me on Pinterest (I’ve been obsessed with pinning things lately!) and then join my group board Cultivating Creativity to share some of your ideas!

xo Alex

PS – I have learned so much from a Scholastic article that inspired these posts. Please check it out here!

25 open ended play gift ideas featuring small shops and amazon
Posted on Leave a comment

How to Cultivate Pretend Play at Home (And why you want to!)

Hello, Friend!

I don’t know about you, but when I stop for just a moment to watch and listen to my children play, I am captured by the magic of their imaginations. Their make-believe play reminds me of my favorite parts of childhood. It is SO important to me to preserve and guard this!

These days, there are few open-ended toys. The “gadgets” that are marketed to our kids as toys talk for them, play for them, and limit their imagination. More than any generation before, our kids are growing up in an environment of streaming services, tablets, social media, parents on devices, and peers that are tech-obsessed. How do we preserve childhood play in this climate? 

Why is play important?

Did you know that kids get to practice social and emotional skills through play? I mean, sure… that makes sense. But we don’t always consider how they get to “test” out scenarios and interactions with open-ended playthings.

We do it as adults too, right? We play out imaginary scenarios in our minds, practice what we might say to someone, etc. Kids do this through play! And what better way than with toys that allow the child freedom to imagine anything (open-ended toys!)

What is an open-ended-toy?

The best toys are made to foster imaginative play

An open-ended plaything can be simply defined as a toy that has no “rules” and that is able to be played with in different ways – it should support a child’s imagination, not replace it. (Read to the end for examples!)

Play helps develop problem solving skills!

Play also cultivates thinking skills in our kids! As they problem solve within their imaginary worlds, they learn to problem solve in the real world.

A child’s imagination provides a safe zone to trial different thought processes and outcomes. And beyond the “scenarios” that the child acts out, play also encourages problem solving and critical thinking skills between children! Arguing over a toy, wrestling on the floor, expressing their feelings to one another – all of these situations help to teach the child how to interact with others in the world, how to be kind, what personal boundaries are, etc.

How can I cultivate pretend play in the home?

We can all agree that imaginative play is critical to healthy childhood development! But now the question is HOW do we foster pretend play in our homes? Here are some ideas:

  • Turn off the devices
  • Keep non-tech related toys – books, puzzles, open-ended-playthings – in places that are easy to see and access
  • Store toys in “collections” (essentially keeping toys that work well together in the same space – dress up clothes with toy swords, train tracks with blocks, baby dolls with play food, etc.)
  • Store pots, pans, mixing bowls, and spoons in unlocked low cabinets for easy access
  • Leave out cardboard boxes for play before recycling them
  • Donate toys that don’t get played with (less toys allows for greater use of the imagination!)
  • Check out Waldorf and Montessori toy guides for more ideas!
  • Be more intentional to buy toys that support open-ended play instead of following fads! (And don’t forget secondhand resources!)

Open-Ended Toy Examples

What are NOT open-ended toys? Some might surprise you!

  • Video games
  • Puzzles
  • Board games
  • Lego sets (the ones with the instructions)
  • Art and craft kits
  • Stacking rings
  • Books
  • Shape sorters, etc.

None of these are open-ended. That doesn’t mean that these are bad, it just means that they have “rules” that must be followed to play “correctly” with the toy. A good way to think about it is if the play can be “completed” (like a puzzle, game, or book) it is not open ended.

What are examples of open-ended toys? 

I guess you can see from that last example where my hand-made toys fall. 😉 

My plush playthings are made to foster imaginative play. I’m committed to continue making toys that help our kids as they grow and develop. It is important to me to support make-believe and independent play as much as possible, and I know it’s important to you too! 

The plush playthings that I offer are meant to foster open-ended play scenarios that allow children to practice their social skills in the ways mentione above! That is the beauty of a 100% natural, non-plastic, non-battery operated toy. 

Which Plaything is perfect for you? Take the quiz below to find out!

Did you find this post about play helpful? You’ll want to take a look at my Open-Ended Play Holiday Gift Guide as the holidays draw close (Coming Nov 18th!) I will include a mixture of small shops and Prime items!

Collection of Plush Toys

Well Friends, 

I hope that these ideas have inspired you as you currate the playspaces within your home. If you want to find more inspo, follow me on Pinterest (I’ve been obsessed with pinning things lately!) and then join my group board Cultivating Creativity to share some of your ideas!

xo Alex

PS – I have learned so much from a Scholastic article that inspired this post. Please check it out here!

Posted on Leave a comment

Stamps 101: How to Carve and Use a Custom Stamp for OOAK Prints

Hey There, Friends!

On a scale of 1 to 10, how crafty are you? I’d say I fall somewhere in the middle. Now I know most of you would be shocked at that self-assessment. (Right?! You guys have surely been following along enough to know that my entire business revolves around crafting…) but hear me out!

I don’t often have “epiphany” ideas – most of what I create comes from a heck of a lot of research, trial and error, and failed attempts. Creativity has to be cultivated and a lot of that happens from being a student, learning from others around us, and trying new things.

Where am I going with this? I like to share a lot of BTS (behind the scenes) glimpses into how I make things and dye them on my Instagram accounts. And every time, you guys always show up in my DMs. I love having those “wow” conversations with you and I can’t tell you how many questions I’ve gotten about the basics of natural dyeing. I love it when creativity rubs off on people!

I want to create more content that enables YOU to pursue creative things too! A week or two ago, I asked you in an IG poll what sort of a free resource you’d like me to create and the majority of you said – a stamp carving/printing tutorial! (Don’t worry if you voted for something else – I’ll be creating more things in the future!)

Homemade stamps carved from potatoes

I’ve done some stamping in my shop and I’ve learned a thing or two from other artists too (have you seen the amazing block printing work of Jessica from Wild Fire Water or Graham Keegan?) 

For my project of stamping a kitchen flour sack towel, I used a mixture of the printing tools I own (because I have those around MY house) and things that the everyday person will have around their home. You can go all out and buy the professional tools of the trade – which I recommend for anyone hoping to stamp on a regular basis – or you can make do with things you have on hand! 

I really love the final results! Don’t you?

carving a stamp from a potato

Stamping is fun because you can play around with a large range of repeating and abstract patterns. Pinterest has so much inspo and I’ve saved a lot of it to my stamping board there! 

So… who is this tutorial for? It’s for anyone who wants to create one-of-a-kind prints on fabric and/or paper. (I’ll bet you have most or all of the supplies at home already!) Are you ready to get started? Click this link below to get my supply list and tutorial instructions!

Click the link above to download your guide, get carving, make some prints, and then tag me on social media so I can see what you create!

custom stamp of mother and child on a table with a candle and stamped bandanas

Well Friends, 

I hope that these creative ideas have inspired you to make something with your hands this month. If you want to find more inspo, follow me on Pinterest (I’ve been obsessed with pinning things lately!) and then join my group board Cultivating Creativity to share some of your ideas!

Happy Stamping!

xo Alex

STAMPS 101: How to Carve and Use a Custom Stamp Tutorial
Posted on

Easy Naturally-Dyed and Crocheted Lovey – DIY Blanket Pattern and Natural Dye Method

Hello Friends!

As this blog transitions to include my journey as a maker, I want to occasionally share projects that anyone can easily make on their own at home. ♥ I am not a traditional crafty person. Much of what I have learned related to crocheting, sewing, and natural dying are skills I have picked up through Google, trial and error, reading books, and learning from others. I tell you this so that you can know that being a maker is possible with enough diligence and hard work!

Today’s DIY project is one of my favorites! Today is I Love Yarn Day and in honor of that, I am posting this crochet + dye tutorial!

In my shop I used to offer a hand-dyed and crocheted wool lovey. This tiny blanket measured approximately 10 inches by 10 inches. It is a simple design and process that anyone who knows the basic crochet stitches can easily complete. The dye process is also equally doable with the proper supplies and patience. I hope that it can be the perfect addition to a baby shower gift or that it can be a special item for your own sweet babe.

Let’s get started!!

Supplies

  • Un-dyed, naturally-colored wool yarn (this is the one I use)*
  • Size N (9mm) crochet hook
  • Scissors
  • Post It notes (or something similar in size)
  • Yarn needle
  • Stainless steel pot (not to be used for food!)
  • Stainless steel or wooden spoon (not to be used for food!)
  • 2-4 clothespins
  • 10 black tea bags

* Please be sure that your yarn is wool. The dye will not hold on synthetic fibers such as the more common acrylic yarns. It is possible that the dye would partially hold onto a synthetic/wool blend, but I have not attempted this and cannot say how it would work.

Crochet Pattern

1. Row 1: Using your wool yarn and hook, crochet 25 chain stitches to form the bottom of your blanket. (The length should be approximately 10 inches.) Turn and chain 2.

2. Row 2: Double crochet across the row. Turn and chain 1.

3. Row 3-5: Single crochet across the row. Turn and chain 1. (Repeat for rows 4 and 5.)

4. Rows 6-27: Repeat this process (steps 2-3) until the height of your piece matches the length of your piece. (About 27 rows.)

Finishing: Single crochet around the entire square. Add one extra chain stitch at each corner as you go. (This process can be tricky on the sides of the square, but it will give the piece a nice, finished look. Simply do your best to space out your stitches evenly when an opening is not readily available.) Finish off with a slip stitch into your first single crochet of the border.

Tassels

1. Wrap the yarn around a Post It notepad (or something similar) 20 times.

IMG_0687
IMG_0688
IMG_0689

2. Thread another strand of yarn through the middle and tie a knot.

3. Remove the notepad and cut the loops at the end of the tassel. (Repeat 3x for a total of 4 tassels.)

IMG_0691
IMG_0693

4. Tie off the tops of 3 tassels. Leave the 4th tassel loose. (This will be tied after the dye process.)

IMG_0694
IMG_0695
IMG_0696

Dye Process

1. Add 10 tea bags to your stainless steal pot and fill the pot about half-way with filtered water.

2. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer.

3. Simmer, covered, until the water is a dark, amber color. The amount of time that you steep the tea depends on your color preferences. Longer times = deeper colors

4. Remove the tea bags and filter out any particles that may be floating in your dye. The dye can be used immediately or it can again be kept in the fridge until it becomes moldy.

5. Very gently, submerge your lovey into lukewarm, filtered water and soak thoroughly. (Because it is wool, it is important to avoid drastic temperature changes and to use minimal agitation to prevent accidentally felting your project!)

6. Remove and wring out excess water as well as you can.

7. Carefully drape your lovey over the edge of your dye pot so that the untied tassel corner is in the dye bath. You may submerge as much or as little of your project into the dye as you would like.

8. Use clothespins to hold your lovey in place while heating the dye bath on LOW heat.

9. Allow the project to absorb as much dye as you want. Remember that the finished product will be a few shades lighter once the blanket has been rinsed.

10. When you are happy with the color, wring out as much dye as you can and line dry the lovey out of direct sunlight.

11. Once dry, set it aside for a few days to allow the dye to affix itself to the wool fibers.

12. Finally, hand-wash (with a ph neutral soap) and rinse your lovey until the water runs clear. Once again, use cool water and minimal agitation to protect the integrity of your work.

14. Line dry your lovey one last time! (And don’t forget to finish tying your last tassel!)

* Please do not use your dye pots and/or utensils for cooking. Although this natural dye is safer, it is important to maintain separate equipment for these two purposes.

Lovey Care

May be spot cleaned and/or CAREFULLY hand washed with minimal agitation in COLD water with a gentle detergent and then laid flat to dry. Do NOT place in a washing machine or dryer. Please note that due to the nature of natural dye, the color may change and/or lightly fade with additional washings.

Additional Notes

I would like to note that while black tea can provide depth of color for a relatively long period of time, it is still considered a fugitive dye. This means that after exposure to washes and sunlight, it can and will loose some or all of its color. If this happens, feel free to re-dye it using the instructions above! As I like to say – “A naturally dyed product truly is alive and is meant to be enjoyed for as long as its lifecycle lasts. Its elusiveness is what makes it so alluring!”

Please be advised that none of these items should be used without parental supervision as the materials used could pose choking, strangulation, or suffocation hazards. Please do not leave any item with an unattended child. Do not allow children to wear or play with these products while sleeping or while riding in a car seat. Alex and My Lovely Things Co. are not responsible for any injuries associated with use or misuse of these products. Thank you!

Posted on Leave a comment

Easy Eucalyptus Wreath Tutorial – How To Make An Eucalyptus Wreath For Any Occasion

As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, I am a lover of pretty things. What sorts of things strike my fancy? Nature, calm and cool colors, lovely aromas (and, no, beauty is not always seen – sometimes it is encountered through the other senses!), warm drinks on cool days (few and far between here in Florida, lol), cozy hugs, old movies, etc. I’m sure you get the picture… 

Not only do I love experiencing the pretty and beautiful aspects of life, I also love to make them. This is part of my WHY behind becoming a maker and starting an Etsy Shop (more on that in a later post!) This post was birthed out of my latest creative obsession and my desire to share how-to and DIY posts on this remade blog.

You see, it is fun to create, but it is incredibly rewarding to empower others to create.

I believe it is good for the soul – your soul AND mine. My commitment to you is to make things fun and attainable. Your commitment to me is to not take yourself too seriously and simply enjoy the process – whatever it looks like!

Have I convinced you to try the creative process? I hope so! Today’s tutorial is for a lovely (and easy!) Eucalyptus Wreath. I promise you will love having this in your home! Its aesthetics are gorgeous and its scent is heavenly!

So let’s get started, shall we?

Supplies

  • Several bunches of eucalyptus stems (I used 3 bunches from Trader Joe’s)
  • Yarn or twine
  • Scissors
  • A few bundles of berries (optional)

Wreath-Making Process

  1. Take two sturdy stems of eucalyptus and gently bend them into an arc. You will be connecting the top of one stem to the bottom of the other stem and vice versa.
  2. Using a short piece of yarn or twine (I used yarn,) tie the ends of the stems to the tops of the stems – forming a rough circle. 
  3. Take a few more stems and lay them onto the circle pattern. Tie these to the original two. (I recommend staggering the connected ends thoughout the circle so that it is stronger.)
  4. Once you feel that your circle is sturdy, you can continue adding eucalyptus. I decided to tuck, twist, and thread each new stem into the existing ones – instead of tying them on. (This kept the yarn from being visible on the finished product.)
  5. Continue adding eucalyptus stems until you run out or until you like the fullness of your wreath.
  6. (Optional) Tuck a few berries bunches in between the strands of eucalyptus for a festive feel! (If you dislike the look of the berries once they dry out, you can always remove them later on.)
  7. To hang your wreath, add a loop of yarn onto the back of the wreath. (Be sure it is attached to one of the original stems that you tied together!)
  8. Your wreath will smell AMAZING while it dries. As long as you did a good job of properly securing the stems, it should hold its shape forever! Eucalyptus dries beautifully and is the prettiest accent in your home. 

Note: I have kept my wreath indoors. I am not certain how it would hold up in an outdoor environment.

I’ve created a time-lapse video to show you the wreath-making process. You can find it here:

This wreath was the perfect Christmas decoration in my home. And once the new year rolls around – I will simply remove the holiday berries to have a lovely year-round wreath!

Will make a similar wreath? I think that dried plants look so much more beautiful than their fake counterparts! Be sure to leave me a comment if you make one for your home!

xo Alex