Help young minds flex their creativity with a grass-dyeing project. Parents, you'll need fresh grass clippings from the yard, a few materials, and space to experiment. For the best results, cut your grass right before your child makes the dye. Fresh, moist blades are chock-full of chlorophyll, the natural pigment that makes grass green.
Gather These Things
Cover your kids' work surface, or take part of the project outdoors. Don't forget to wear old clothing and rubber gloves, and keep an eye on hot pots in the kitchen.
- 5 cups of super-fresh grass clippings at least 3 inches long
- A stove and nearby sink
- 2-gallon stainless steel stock pot (larger if you're dyeing large items)
- ½ gallon of water
- ½ gallon of white vinegar
- Wooden spoon, long-handled tongs, and scissors
- Cheesecloth and string, or a muslin bag to hold the grass
- Oven mitts
- White, 100% cotton fabric to dye
- Iron and ironing board
- Rubber bands or string to make patterns in the fabric
Follow These Steps
1. Pre-soak the fabric. Soak the items you plan to use in cool water while you prepare your natural dye. Wring them out before you get down to work. If you're after tie-dye patterns, use rubber bands or string to secure tufts of fabric in different places. You can also twist and tie knots in the fabric to create folds and crevices. Either way, you'll end up with places where dye can settle for a deeper color, along with a contrast of spots where the dye can't reach.
2. Add the vinegar and water to your pot and bring it to a boil. The combo of hot water and vinegar will help fabrics to better absorb the color.
3. Prepare your grass clippings. Measure at least 5 cups of grass clippings and use scissors to chop them into 1-inch pieces. Pile the clippings into the center of a piece of cheesecloth or into a muslin bag, and cinch it tightly closed.
4. Add the grass to the pot, and let it simmer. After 20 minutes, the grass should be limp and pale, with the color saturating the water instead. Use tongs or a wooden spoon to very carefully remove the bag once the grass has lost its color, or the water looks greenish-brown. Leave the dye bath simmering on the stove and throw the bag into your compost.
5. Put your fabric into the hot dye bath. Completely immerse each item into the dye, let it simmer for 30 to 60 minutes, and stir often with a wooden spoon to distribute the color. Depending on the type of grass used and how long the fabric stays in the bath, the finished color might be anywhere from tan to light yellow to pale green.
6. Remove the fabric and rinse it thoroughly in cool water. Once you have a color you're happy with (natural dyes look lighter once dry), use tongs to carefully transfer items from the bath to the sink. Rinse them with cool water until it runs clear, then hang to dry. You can pour the bath water down the drain since all of the ingredients are natural.
7.Iron your dyed fabric to set the color.This step is for the adults. Use an iron on low heat to press every part of each dyed item, making the color more permanent. Always wash dyed fabric separately, in cool water, to keep it from fading or accidentally transferring color to other laundry items.
Once you've tried dyeing fabric with grass, you may also enjoy experimenting with other plants you find growing in your backyard or garden. Herbs, flowers, and even vegetables can produce beautiful and surprising natural dyes in just about every color of the rainbow!