Friday, November 27, 2020

Overdying Floss with Coffee

I did a little experiment a bit ago. I had a bargain bag of variegated floss from J&P Coates. When I bought the bag, I thought it had a large variety of floss, but it turned out just to be triples of each color. I like bright colors in some moods for some stitcheries, and muted colors for other stitcheries, so I decided to overdye a set of flosses.

I just used regular ground coffee, and a low-tech drip pot. I made it pretty strong, and I pushed the floss into the hot coffee, stirred it now and again, and then took it out after about three hours. In retrospect, it was not long enough. It looked like a good, deep overdye, but when I rinsed the floss after letting it dry and "set," a lot of the coffee color washed out, too. So the effect is very subtle.

In the photographs, it's hard to see the difference between the overdyed floss and the regular floss (paper bands still on). In real life, the difference is more obvious.

Some needleworkers are adamant to never use tea or coffee for overdying, but I look at it a bit differently: I have seen samplers and stitcheries that are 200 years old, and they are intact, despite how the people of the day prepared the dyes and even the floss itself. They aren't disentegrated despite a lot of hoo-haw over acidic content or tannins. But everyone has the right to their own opinion. Some of the little things I stitch, like a simple pinkeep/pincushion, don't need to be preserved for the next 500 years. An elaborate stitchery, perhaps yes.

I might try walnut dye in the future, but I hear it gives a gray tone, not a brown tone. I go back and forth on whether I like muted yellow-browns, or muted cool grays.

I think I'm going to stitch up a Valentine's pinkeep and then overdye the entire thing. Perhaps. I like the look of the muted tones on a very clear pastel fabric, or clear tones on muted fabric. I'm not sure about both floss and fabric being muted. 

Do you like the look of muted floss in a stitching project?

    Kind regards,

    The Merry Olde Dame


  1. Fascinating! My grandmother used red onion as a dye. Would that work for the floss?

  2. your should have thrown some vinegar in the pot to set it so much would have not rinsed out.
    I do like a muted look and coffee is a natural dye.

  3. Carol, I'm going to try the red onion skins, I had forgotten about them! Cathy, that's right, vinegar is a mordant, isn't it? I will try it again.

  4. I like both the original and muted coloured floss. I haven't tried coffee but I have successfully dyed fabric with strong tea.


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