Woman plants garden to tie-dye

Staff writer

Betty Williams of Marion wants to plant vegetables and flowers this year for one purpose: to get some natural dye.

“I loved tie-dyeing when I was a kid,” the 66-year-old said. “But I didn’t want to use all the chemicals. Then I found instructions on how to make some natural dye and I just have to try it.”

Williams is one of many people who are currently planning to make dye from garden plants. While some disagree on the best varieties to use, all agree that it is better to use natural products whenever possible. Williams said she plans on planting zinnias, sunflowers, dahlias, and marigolds in her flowerbed and carrots, beets, red cabbage, and spinach in her vegetable garden.

“I’ll have some really nice reds, yellows, and purples,” she said. “That should allow me to do whatever I want.”

While most gardeners do not look forward to weeding their gardens, Williams said it brings a unique opportunity to her venture.

“I hope I get some dandelions and queen Anne’s lace in there,” she said. “They are really strong and I’ve heard they make great dyes. I’ll just have to make sure to put them in water, so they’ll still be around when I’m ready to process them.”

Williams said it isn’t an inexpensive venture. She spent nearly $200 at Wal-Mart to get the needed supplies.

“I needed gloves,” she said. “I didn’t want any of that dye to get on my hands. So, I got a pair for gardening and a pair for cooking. I also bought two huge enamel pans and a stainless steel strainer.”

Williams said there are many different techniques to dying fabric with natural dyes. But, after doing some research, she found there was one recipe that everyone seemed to use.

“It calls for you to shred the plants into little pieces in order to release all the color possible in the plant,” she said. “Then you put it all in the pot and boiled them for an hour. Then you strain it and add one tablespoon of vinegar for every cup of liquid. Then you bring that to a boil again before you add the fabric.”

She said she isn’t looking forward to the smells that will fill her house throughout this process, but said it will be worth it in the end.

“I don’t want any chemicals touching my skin,” she said.

But, she is looking forward to one part: tying her shirts up.

“The best part about tie-dying is wrapping all the rubber bands around into creative designs,” she said. “I bought 10 bags of bands when they were on clearance. I’m probably going to put a whole bag or more on each one. If I remember right, the most unique designs are made when you put a bunch on.”

She said she’ll put her tied clothing into the dye bath for about an hour and then rinse it in a vat of cool water. Then, she’ll hang them on her clothesline for drying.

She said she’ll probably have to repeat the process several times on one shirt in order to get the desired color. But she is ready for the challenge — even if her plants are still germinating.

While Williams said she has never made natural dyes and doesn’t really know what she is doing, she said she has friends in Colorado and Illinois who have been successful with it – and knows that they’ll be a good resource for her in upcoming months.

“It’ll be a good way to reconnect with them,” she said.

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