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Dyeing with rhubarb root with a surprise ending!

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Rhubarb is one of my favourite ever plants to dye with and one of the first I ever discovered. I grow lots on my allotment because it is so useful and versatile and ofcourse delicious to eat as well!

To make dye from this plant you need to dig up the root and after cleaning off most of the soil chop it into little pieces – as you do this you will start to smell it’s delicous sweet smell which will continue to scent your fabric.

Once you have chopped up your rubarb you can place it in the centre of a clean piece of fabric – the kind of fabric that will let the dye pass through easily so any kind of light cotton is perfect – I’ve used some old sheeting.

Take your bundle and put in an old pot and cover with boiling water – put it on the heat and let it simmer – you will soon see the golden yellow colour starting to ooze out.

While your dye bath is simmering you can get on with preparing your fabric.

For this demo I’ve used organic calico but you can experiment with a wide range of fabrics – I’ve even dyed nylons and plastics successfully with rhubarb.

Before you add your fabric to the dye pot make sure it’s wetted through thoroughly – this will help it take the dye better.

You can leave your fabric in the dye bath for as long or as little as you like – the longer you leave it the deeper the tones and as with all the best cooking, the slower you take it the better the results will be. This is the colour I got after leaving the fabric in the dye bath overnight (with the heat off ofcourse)

Here is the surprise bit – if you would like to turn your fabric a reddy pink – make up a solution of soda crystals (just add a few tablespoons to a bowl of water and mix well)

then dip your fabric into it. Here you can see the before and after – it’s always magic and takes me by surprise – one of the wonders of natural dyeing!

I do hope this demo gives you a clear step-by-step approach that will give you the confidence to have a go.

Do let me know how you get on with your rhubarb dyeing and get in touch @sarahburnspatterns@gmail.com if you have any questions.

Have fun!

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