Project Dates: 2/12/2021 - 2/27/2021
Last fall I tried to dye with coffee grounds. We diligently saved all the coffee grounds daily. Actually, we still do. They are composted regularly, and I save some in the refrigerator for dyeing. The experiment last fall was on cotton. I researched the web and my library for formulas. The recipes were all over the place. Ratios ranged wildly to not existent. Some recipes were very serendipitous with instructions that sounded like a fairy godmothers’ incantations!
I am making a crocheted afghan from wool out of my stash. It is the current morning coffee and wakeup project. Hubby says, “that needs a couple of pillows to match!” So, before the afghan got bigger than a very large dinner plate, I immediately made two more. The plan is to applique them to make pillow covers. So online I went and purchased pillow stuffing and raw silk fabric and zippers! So where does the coffee come into play? Besides fiber and coffee in the morning!
The five wool yarn colors are natural cream, a dark blue green, a variegated that ranges from pale blue green to light gray, mint, and a beautiful reddish-brown tween that also ranges in tones from light to dark. I had some leftover dye in burgundy and blue green. The plan was to tie-dye with the burgundy and blue green, and then overdyed with coffee.The earlier cotton experiment was disappointing. First, I used tannin as a mordant which dyed everything a very beautiful, but unexpected golden beige. So, I then restarted again with fresh cotton and didn’t use a mordant because some of the guidance indicated coffee didn’t need a mordant. I used a very light ratio of two to one. The color was a very very pale beige. Beautiful, but hardly worth the effort.
So, onto the current coffee experiment! I selected four different fibers to test; naturally white wool yarn, white silk charmeuse, natural silk noil, and cotton knit. Two experiments were completed. The process was identical between the two. The only variation was the ratio of coffee grounds to weight of fiber. In the first experiment I tried 4 to 1, and in second, it was 12 to 1. The results consistently were darker for the wool and silk compared to cotton. The 4 to 1 came out a light shade of beige, kind of like coffee with a heck of a lot of creamer. The 12 to 1 was much closer to what I was aiming for, and on the silk and wool resulted in a beautiful shade of dark coffee.
Figure 1: (bottom to top) cotton knit, silk charmeuse, silk noil
Figure 2: wool yarn
By the way, I through caution to the wind, and after seeing the results of the 4 to 1 ratio and deciding to triple the ratio to 12 times weight of coffee to weight of fiber, I just threw in the pillow covers before seeing the results of this test. The pillow covers were created from silk soil hich had been sewn into round pillow shapes with zippers, and tie-dyed in burgundy and blue-green first. On the samples I let the fiber soak in the dye bath for 24 hours while cooling down. I didn’t do that with the pillow, and it came out closer to the lighter color than the darkest shades above.
So, I re-dyed them one more time. This time I tried 24 times weight of coffee to weight of fiber. The same process was used except because of the amount of coffee material needed I had to split up the fiber and coffee between two slow cookers. The ratios remained the same, just done in two batches simultaneously. I love how they turned out! See the difference after this second dye below.