The photos of vegetables in Singapore in my last post reminded me of these photos that I took last year and have been meaning to post. It must be my printed textile background coming back to me, because one day I had the urge to experiment with natural colour and play with food and fabric. I popped to the supermarket and worked on the theory that if it stains clothes (mine occasionally but mainly my children’s!) then it may have a longer-lasting dye quality. So I bought beetroot, red onions, blackberries, red cabbage and pomegranate and I had lots of other possibilities in the cupboards at home to test out too.
I did some research and found it wasn’t really as simple or as easy as I had hoped to fix the natural colours permanently, chemical dyes are much easier for this, but I continued anyway. My method was to boil water, add the foodstuff, mix it around to colour the water in a concentrated enough way, sieve it and then add swatches of plain white linen to my homemade ‘dye’. I wet the fabric in clean water before adding the swatch to the dye and left them in soak for varying lengths of time until I liked the colour or it seemed to no longer be darkening. To fix them I added a mixture, in an experimental sense, of vinegar for vegetables and/or salt for berries. I then washed them in cold water first and then hot. The results are below:
1- Blackberry, 2- Blackberry and red onion peel, 3- Blackberry and red cabbage, 4- Blackberry and red cabbage, 5- Beetroot (pickled), 6- Beetroot and tea, 7- Spinach, 8- Red onion peel, 9- Pomegranate, 10- Red cabbage, 11- Red cabbage and a pinch of turmeric, 12- Red cabbage and turmeric, 13- Red cabbage, turmeric and vinegar, 14- Red cabbage, tiny amount of turmeric and vinegar, 15- Red cabbage with vinegar, 16- Tea, 17- Coffee, 18- Paprika, 19- Red wine, 20- Red wine and tea, 21- Turmeric, 22- Turmeric with wine, 23- Turmeric with wine and tea, 24- Turmeric small amount
I don’t think there would be much possibility in colouring large enough quantities of fabric in a colourfast way to make cushions or throws, but I love the colours I made with this experiment and mixed a few together to give new combinations.
It was fun experimenting with food and fabric, especially knowing that it was all completely natural, and I was pleased with the gentle colour results I achieved.
And luckily I didn’t get any on my clothes! 🙂
Sania Pell is a freelance interior stylist, creative director and consultant based in London. She is a contributing stylist at Elle Decoration magazine, with whom she has worked for 17 years, and is known for bringing a unique aspect to photographic shoots for national publications, leading brands and retailers as well as style consultancy for top architecture practices and property development companies. She is the author of best-selling book The Homemade Home and The Homemade Home for Children. A trained, former textile designer, Sania is also involved in many multi-disciplinary creative projects.
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