4. Biofabricating Dyes and Materials#

My task this week#

This week, I dyed a 100% cotton textile with natural color pigments. Before that, some considerations and preparations were necessary.

I decided to dye with hibiscus flowers to get some pink cotton fibers and saffron threads to get some yellow fibers.

And after that I will try to make some bioplastic! Here you can see my results!

All materials used#

Qty Description Price Where to buy?
1 rusty iron
1 Water
1 vinegar 2,00 supermarket
1 alum 4,00 local pharmacy
1 saffron 10,00 Internet
1 hibiscus flower 4,00 Internet
1 gelatin 1,00 supermarket
1 glycerin 4,00 local pharmacy
1 dried cornflowers 3,00 Internet

Iron liquor#

First, I made iron liquor out of rusty iron plates, water and vinegar. The liquor had to rest for a couple of days and was then applied on the dyed fabric.

Mordant with Alum#

As fabric I have chosen 100% cotton. First I had to wash the pieces of fabric to remove stains. I then prepared the mordant by mixing boiling water with alum (aluminum sulphate) which I got from my local pharmacy. I used 10 grams of alum for 200g of cotton (dry weight). Once this was done I have covered the wet cotton with mordant and had it simmer on a regular stove for about one hour. I left the cotton in the solution overnight, then washed it out and hung it up to dry.

Dye with saffron and hibiscus flowers#

After treating the fabric with mordant, I created the bio dye by using water and saffron threads. I used roughly 4g of saffron with 250ml of water brought it to a boil and had it simmer for 30min. Then I dipped the cotton in the boiling water and left it there for 45 min. The result is a beautiful yellow! Look at the pictures.

I decided to carry out the same process with dried hibiscus flowers instead of saffron threads to create more colours. For this I boiled 30 grams of hibiscus flowers in water for 30 minutes and then had the cotton simmer for 45 minutes. The cotton was in the dye overnight and dried afterwards.

Color change with iron liquor and vinegar#

I then modified the dyed cotton with the self-made iron liquor. For this, the fiber has simmered for 5min in the stain. The bright yellow has lost some intensity and has now a brownish tint.

The modification with vinegar resulted in a different colour tone. The bright yellow turned into a strong orange. You can see the difference in the photos.

Results and recipes#


My other task of the week was to produce a material. I decided to make bioplastic. In order to do so I needed gelatin, glycerine and water and for the looks, I used dried cornflowers.

I mixed 16 grams of gelatine powder, 4 grams of glycerine and 80 ml of water and heated these ingredients in a pot and had it simmer for 5 minutes. I stirred in the dried cornflowers at the very end. Then I applied the mixture to a smooth surface and left it to dry for 2 hours. As you can see on the pictures, the produced bioplastic was slightly translucent and the structure of the dried cornflowers was easy to see.