Let's Talk About: natural tie dye

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Tie dye gained popularity during the hippie movement of the 1960s, but fabric dying dates back thousands of years in many regions of the world. People would color fabrics using things found in their backyards. And you can, too. Natural dyes are free of chemicals and easy for kids to handle.

When smashed and boiled, nuts, berries and plants can be used for their hues. Beets create red; red cabbage makes blue; turmeric produces yellow. Like pigments of paint, experiment with adding different plants to create custom colors. Adding red pomegranate skin to yellow turmeric creates orange.

Have an adult help you. Choose a fabric to dye. White or light-colored shirts work well. Once you choose your fabric, it needs to be “fixed.” This helps the colors to stay. Two options include: ½ cup salt into 4 cups water or 1 cup vinegar into 4 cups water. Vinegar works best for plant dyes. Simmer the shirt for 1 hour in the vinegar bath, allow to cool and rinse with cold water. Once cooled, cinch the shirt and tie with rubber bands or wax coated string. This creates the tie dye look. An Indonesian technique called batik uses wax as paint to create more unique patterns.

In India, Turmeric (a spice in curry) dyes cloth yellow. Companies add turmeric to dye mustard. To prepare dye, add ¼ cup of powdered turmeric to 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. For other colors, use 1 part chopped plant material to 2 parts water. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer for 1 hour. Strain out chunks and return to medium heat. Add fabric and simmer for 1 hour. Allow to cool to room temperature or soak overnight. Remove from color and rinse with cold water until water runs clear. Wash and wear.

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