Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Slow Textiles: Experiments in Dyeing using Black Beans

Inspired by these blog posts found via Pinterest, I soaked black beans (no-name brand from the grocery store, 1 cup, in 8 cups of tap water) for about 24 hours at room temperature (then cooked the beans, to be added to a chili today, mmmmm). The extracted colour was much more red than blue. I added more water and some alum, to act as a co-mordant, then I dumped in my fabric. In retrospect perhaps co-mordanting was a mistake; premordanting fabric that has been properly stripped would typically give a much stronger colour.

Before dyeing: off-white bamboo-rayon socks, and 8 m/m silk habotai scarves that were previously dyed with logwood and alum mordant.
I also, inspired by this Spirit Cloth post, tied some black beans into a rayon-spandex (95%-5%) tshirt and threw it into the pot, too. Then I let everything sit at room temperature, with a plate on top to keep the fabric all underwater, overnight.

The white t-shirt, before dyeing. I accordion-folded the body and added the wide pink elastics, which will show as white stripes if all goes to plan. Each sleeve got 5 black beans, surrounded by multiple wraps of the blue elastics, which should create some polka dot interest in front along the shoulder seams.
After about 5 minutes in the dyebath, in a thrifted white enamel lobster pot. The two bundles that look more purple-grey than the rest are the logwood ones.
In the morning I added a second (tripled) batch of black-bean-soaking water to the dye pot (which had looked fairly pale by two hours into the process), stirred well, and then let everything sit for another 24 hours.

After adding the extra black bean dye. 
As the beans absorbed water, they swelled and tore little holes in the fabric.
I'll add embroidery to mend the holes. I like the blue rings the beans left.
The scarves after dyeing. I think they'll get overdyed.
Socks and t-shirt after dyeing.
Thoughts: I was surprised to see the logwood colour fade out in the scarves! Next time, I'll definitely premordant my fabric, play with the dyebath pH to see if I can get a bluer result, and give any beans tied into the fabric a bit more breathing room so they can swell without damaging the fabric weave.

Note: This post is part of my #30DaysOfMaking Challenge.


  1. really surprised that the swelling beans could actually tear the fabric!
    so interesting
    thanks for the post
    su :)