Category Archives: Kid’s Crafts

Growing the Color Blue


This is my second year growing Japanese Indigo from seed originally purchased from FIBERSHED Marketplace.  It is easy to grow from seed and seems to love my garden.  You can save your own seed from year to year.  Start it in the Spring and harvest it in the Summer.  When I went out to harvest it yesterday I noticed that the honeybees were loving the beautiful pink Indigo flowers.  I try planting for the bees and birds and us so this made me quite happy.

IMG_0396Yesterday, Lily and I used the “one-day” recipe out of Rebecca Burgess’ wonderful book HARVESTING COLOR.  We harvested the Indigo and removed the leaves from the stalks.  We put 3/4 pound of leaves in a 2 1/2 quart jar of warm rainwater.  I use rainwater because we catch it here but you could use filtered water.  You just don’t want the chlorine in city water going in your dye bath.


The jar was placed in a big pot of water we heated to 170 degrees.  We used a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature.  The water immediately turned blue!  The leaves heated in that jar for three hours.  We have an outdoor stove so we didn’t have to heat up the house in the process.  After the three hours of heating I put a colander over a stainless steel pot and strained the solution.  The leaves were then squeezed over the pot to get the rest of the liquid out.  They were then thrown into the compost and the work began!

A tablespoon of baking soda was then added and for the next 10 minutes Lily and I poured the solution from one pot to another to oxygenate it.  It changed color before our eyes (which this dye bath did many times throughout the day!).  As it was poured back and forth it got darker and darker and turned a very dark bluish green color.  At that point we added a tablespoon of Spectralite I got from Dharma Trading Company (thank you Julie!).  Lily very gently stirred this into the dye bath trying her best not to make any bubbles.  The Spectralite removes oxygen from the dye bath.  We kept the liquid at 100 degrees by putting the dye pot on top of the pot we heated the jars in since the water was already hot.  After 8 to 10 minutes it was supposed to turn yellow.  Our dye bath stayed blue-green so we were worried that it wasn’t going to work.


We forged ahead anyway by putting in Lily’s pre-wetted wool yarn and my silk scarf.  They had been soaking in the warm water pot.  We put them in the dye bath gently so we would not make any bubble and add oxygen.  The yarn was immediately blue so we were still concerned since they were supposed to come out yellowish and turn blue when they hit the air.  We left it all in the pot for 10 minutes or so and when we pulled it out it was a yellowish light blue.  Like a magic trick it turned a gorgeous deep blue right in front of our eyes!  The neighbors probably thought we had lost our minds were so excited!

IMG_0427Last Summer the kids and I used the Indigo leaves fresh by putting them in a blender with rainwater and making a raw liquid dye.  We used some raw silk shirt scraps from a thrift shop purchase and they made little bags.  They made their own cordage handles with Japanese Iris leaves from the backyard and were quite happy with themselves!


Why use natural dyes?  As Rebecca Burgess point out on her website, “The textile industry is the number one polluter of fresh water resources on the planet, as well as having an immense carbon footprint.  The average CO2 emitted for the production of one t-shirt is up to 40 times the weight of that shirt.”

We can use locally grown fibers for clothes and locally grown plants for dyes.  Since I am not a knitter (yet) but I am a thrift shopper I buy used clothes and dye them with plants grown in my yard or gathered in my neighborhood.  Just about every color is available from plants.  Now, I’ve got blue!

Decorating Eggs with Berries and Flowers

What a lovely morning spent in the garden with six 1st graders! They happily gathered eggs from the chicken coop and the duck house and were delighted to find that the chickens laid colored eggs. We talked about how we didn’t really need to dye them but we could decorate them… They loved the idea! I cut up some paper egg carton into four-egg sections with the tops off. Each child got their own egg carton and ran to the garden to fill them with grass. When they returned I laid out bowls of frozen blueberries with which to draw and paint on their eggs. They each got one pink and one blue egg to decorate. The eggs all looked darling in their little grass-filled cartons but they needed a little something…. hats! We ran out to the front yard to find the perfect flowers for this purpose. I had mixed up some flour paste the night before and set it out for them to use with with craft sticks. A dab of that on top of each egg and the ‘hats’ stayed on just fine. Each child created their own variation of this idea. I am ALWAYS astounded at the beauty created by children when they really SEE what surrounds them in the natural world.

From Chaos to Cuteness

Last year some time I posted a need for fabric and sewing notions on our neighborhood yahoo group. I asked for anything folks might have left over from other projects. Some things were dropped off on our porch and I was happy. A few weeks later a neighbor contacted me to ask if a retiring teacher friend of hers could drop off a “few” items. I said, “Sure!”. The teacher’s husband arrived with a truck and proceeded to unpack box after box! It was great. I sorted out what we could use in our camps and donated the rest.

Well, this week we finally dove into the boxes of felt and had some fun. It was our annual ‘Gift-making Camp’ and the kids were ready to get to work. While trying to come up with some good ideas I stumbled upon and found the “Sock Owl” tutorial. I just showed the kids the picture of the owl and set out the materials and they ran with it!

Two owls and a cat later…

They were quite pleased with their work.

Thank you Whimsy Loft for a fun idea and thank you anonymous retired teacher for the great materials!

Easter Eggs with Plant Dyes

Here is our latest round of Easter eggs dyed with plants. We made two dye baths of onion skins. One pot was with yellow onion skins and the other was with red onion skins. This time we used flowers AND leaves for our prints and were quite happy with this results! The flowers themselves gave off a color of their own.

One of the kids used the small white flower of his beloved Wild Onion (Allium triquetrum) which is white. The print it made was a gorgeous deep yellow. On the other side of his egg he used part of an Oxalis leaf to make a heart print. It also left some yellow color. Japanese Maple leaf leaves leave a color of their own as well as Wormwood (Artemesia absinthium).

For the actual process go to my April 2010 entry and you will find it there.

It’s fun to unwrap the eggs to see what chemical reaction the plant has made with the dye bath. Some leaves give color like this Buckeye leaf print while others just leave a resist print.

Our favorite looks like a flower print in blue. The flower itself was white with a purple center. The leaf print is Wormwood.

Fun With Plant Dyes

While sitting around the old homestead we decided to have some fun with plants. Easter had just passed and we got inspired to dye eggs. I took the kids out for a walk to gather ferns and other delicate leaves with which to make prints on the eggs. In three different pots we boiled yellow onion skins (reddish brown), beets (pink), and calendula flowers with powdered tumeric root (yellow). Lily added a dash of apple cider vinegar to each pot to help set the dye. We placed the leaf or leaves on our eggs and wrapped them tightly in gauze strips fastened with rubber bands. We hard boiled them in the dye for 10-15 minutes. It was fun to unwrap them and see what happened!

The onion skins were by far the most impressive with a gorgeous deep mottled reddish-brown. The calendula and tumeric gave a pale yellow. The beet dye reacted beautifully with the maple leaf but did not give much color to the egg.

The strips of gauze also got dyed so Lily helped the kids braid necklaces and bracelets out of them. The yellow was amazingly vibrant. The reddish-brown came out peach colored and the pink did not dye the fabric at all.

Then…. we HAD to make playdoh! Lily had the idea to use the beet water as the water in the playdoh recipe. So we did and WOW did it work! We made a second batch and I had the kids knead in tumeric for yellow after it was ready to work. Here is what one of them made.