Purple Cabbage and Block Printing
Before we could block print our tablecloth for our ancient India night I thought we could try to dye it with purple cabbage. Rachel was studying Botany and I knew that a block of study on Ancient India was coming up. We had purple cabbage and white cotton fabric. Why not combine our studies in botany with our upcoming study of Ancient India? Why not make an Indian style tablecloth dyed with purple cabbage and printed with these beautiful hand-carved wooden blocks? These blocks can be purchased here.
You will need:
- 1 whole purple cabbage ( we used 1 but the color turned out pretty pale so I will try 2 cabbages next time.)
- Large Pot
- measuring spoons
- stirring spoon
- unbleached natural cotton fabric
**Note: use pots, spoons and measuring spoons that are not used for cooking. Some mordants are harmful if consumed.
Dyeing with Purple Cabbage
This was our first foray into dyeing with cabbage. I was really not sure what to expect or how it would turn out, but I was all for trying something new!
Make the Dye Bath:
First, we chopped the cabbage and placed it in a large pot. you may want to place your chopped cabbage into some kind of cheese cloth bag. We didn’t and had a hard time straining all the little bits of cabbage out later. Cover with water. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to every 1/2 cabbage used. Now set this to simmer on the stovetop for 30 minutes. Do not simmer for too long as you may weaken the strength of the dye. I may have simmered mine too long thinking it would make my dye bath stronger.
Prepare the fabric:
First, you need to wash the fabric on a hot water cycle. Do not use bleach or fabric softener. In another large pot prepare to mordant the fabric. You need enough water to cover the fabric, but before adding the fabric you need to dissolve the alum in the water. Add 1 tsp of alum to every gallon of water. Stir to dissolve. Make sure the fabric you are using is freshly washed and still damp (not sopping wet). Add the fabric to the mordant bath, making sure the fabric is fully submerged. Wear rubber gloves for this step. Simmer the mordant bath for 1-hour stirring occasionally.
Now for the fun part!
Remove the fabric from the mordant bath and rinse in cool water. Remove the bag of cabbage from the dye bath or strain the cabbage from the dye bath. We added ammonia to our dye bath to get a bluer hue. If you add vinegar it would be pinker and if you just leave it plain it will be lavender. Add the rinsed damp (but not sopping wet) fabric to the dye bath. Let it soak overnight.
Rinse your fabric until the water runs clear. Hang to dry. Now it’s ready for some gorgeous Indian style block printing. Yay! Look for an upcoming post on Block Printing!
Looking back on our foray into dyeing cotton with cabbage I would do a few things differently. The photo above looks almost white, but it truly is a very pale bluish lavender color. I would try doubling the cabbage and not simmer the dye bath for more than 30 min. I’m pretty sure my dye bath got 50 ish minutes in an attempt to get a stronger color. I would also leave my fabric to soak in the dye bath for longer before rinsing. It made a lovely pale color for our block printing which I will post about soon! We used this tablecloth for our Ancient India lesson block which you can read about here.
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