Have you wanted to dye but were nervous about the chemistry of dyeing? Worry no more. I bought some Bengala dyes from Loop of the Loom in NYC (the only place to purchase them outside of Japan) and went to work dyeing some 100% cotton gauze.
Bengala dyes are iron oxide or in other words: mud. The process is simple– prewash your cotton or linen to get finishing off the fabric. Then fill a tub of water to just over the top of the clothes. Then stir with your gloved hands, mixing the dye into the cloth, and keep stirring until you get the desired color. Then lay the fabric in the sun to set.
Now there are a couple of additions to this process. In order to put the Shibori into the adventures, you need to fold and hold various things to create the pattern.
This photo shows the circles. These were created by crushing the cotton in circles and applying rubber bands to keep the dye from totally penetrating the cloth. After you dye it and then dry it, you will cut off the elastics and have your pattern.
The above photo accentuates lines. These were made by folding the cloth lengthways many times and then putting elastic bands every four inches. Following the same process of dyeing and drying, you then take off the elastics and find your lines.
In another attempt, I folded the cloth many ways, securing with elastics, and poured the dye directly on the cloth. This created a deeper color and an interesting pattern
I will return to dyeing with “mud” but this time I will use a fixer to treat the fabric beforehand. I have been assured that deeper colors will emerge with the fixer. Well, we will all just have to wait and see! Meanwhile the subtlety of the Bengala dyes makes for an earthy, eco-friendly cloth of beauty.
Did I mention that the leftover dye can be poured back into the garden: from dust to dust– literally with Bengala dyes!