E.T. A LOCAL WAY OF LEARNING
9. Change, Management
Leslie Repp, Eulalie R. Rivera
2. Social Studies
The students will develop an awareness of the use of natural dyes as opposed to commercial dyes.
As an expression of cultural need and aesthetic appreciation our ancestors made use of barks, roots, and
seeds, etc., to dye cloth and ornament the baskets and bowls made for daily use. By experimenting with
different plant materials as dyes we can use our earth's resources in a creative way.
A collection of plant parts--flowers, barks, roots, seeds.
A hot plate and pot of water.
Mordant of alum (ammonium) and washing soda. (Pharmacy)
Cotton bolls or yarn.
Some plant material to use for dyestuff:
Achiote seeds yellow
Yucca root bark yellow
Tumeric tuber yellow
Onion skins yellow
Mango bark and leaves yellow
Inkberry seeds- dark blue
Logwood- Violets and reds
Unripe guinep fruits- black
Dyes require the use of a mordant which works in this way. A chemical reaction between the mordant and
the dye takes place within the fiber of the cloth, .resulting in a color-fast dye. Cotton needs an alkaline bath,
wood requires an acid bath.
Dissolve alum and washing soda in water, prepare the material by wetting it before immersion in the
mordant, then bring to a boil and continue boiling for an hour or SO. Cool with the material in the mordant,
rinse and it is ready for dying. Prepare the dye bath by boiling the plant material for two hours, pour off the
liquid and immerse the material and boil again for an hour at a low boil.
Primary children might just pick sea island cotton, remove the seeds and test the various plant materials for
color. The advanced students may wish to experiment also with cotton bolls before involving larger amounts
of material. The addition of table salt will aid the color in the dye bath. Adding washing soda to the rinse
will set the dye.
NOTE: You can substitute for the hot plate and pot by using a gallon glass jar and letting the sun do the
heating. Time will be about two weeks rather than two hours, however.
Questions For Discussion:
I- That part of the plants make the best dyes?
I-What is the most common ran-e of colors obtained?
What color is hard to find in a natural dye?
Talk about the natural vs. commercial dyes and the effect commercial dyes have on the environment.
Natural Dyes, Plants and Processes, Jack Kramer, NY, 1972.
A Handbook of Dyes From Natural Materials, Anne Bliss, NY, 1981.