My oldest daughter (age 11), helped me with making a natural dye from dandelions, for our Science Sunday experiment. Actually, the little ones helped, too. They gathered the dandelions.
And, they pulled the heads off the flowers for us.
Then, while we continued with our experiment, they made dandelion curls with the stems. This is actually a science experiment, too. You can read all about the science behind it at Brimful Curiosities.
But, ours were more part boredom buster...
Now, as to the dye - we added boiling water to the dandelion flowers, and let them steep for several hours.
Then, we strained out the flowers, and prepared our cloth (an old cotton t-shirt donated by the man of the house). The fabric needs to be 100% natural fibers, so wool, or cotton, or silk, or the like. We used a vinegar and water solution, for a mordant. A mordant is a substance used to set dyes on fabrics. Since we used all edible ingredients for our dye, and mordant, we were able to use our normal stainless steel cooking pans, without worry.
I missed the part of the instructions I was following, that said to bring the mordant to a boil, and let the cloth soak for an hour in the hot solution. So, we did it wrong, and just soaked our shirt, and then moved it right into the dye.
We let it sit in the dye all afternoon. It probably would have been good to let it sit overnight, but the smell, while not as bad as the alpaca wool, Kool-aid combination, we tried last time we experimented with dyes, was still not very good.
Before bed, I wrung the water out of the shirt, and ironed it, to further set the dye, with heat. The color was uneven, especially around the arms, but in the middle of the shirt, it was a sort of pretty, soft green.
Finally, I washed and dried the shirt, as normal. It turned a cheery pale yellow (I'm sure doing the mordant step right, would have helped to hold the green better). After being satisfied by a second washing, that the dye was fast, and the pale yellow will not fade any further, we're ready to turn the shirt on into the dust rags it was destined for, before it's detour into the dye.
I think when the children are older, it would be fun to revisit natural dyes, and investigate more of the effects of different mordants, on different dyes. But, the chemistry is a little advanced for their current ages.
For more science fun today though, check out this week's Science Sunday link up, at Adventures in Mommydom.
It's great to be a homeschooler.