Dyeing experiment and t-shirts

I may have mentioned that I am participating in the One Outfit One Year challenge, where we participants are going to make a complete outfit from only locally sourced materials. I am a bit of a way down the track, in that I have nearly finished my first item of clothing, but, as I am interested in the whole issue of sustainability and eco friendly sewing, I thought I’d try some new techniques.

First up is dyeing.

I did some reading on the topic and thought I knew what I was doing, but it transpires that I didn’t have a clue!


Apparently eucalyptus leaves will dye without requiring a mordant or fixative. I thought this would be a good place to start. I picked my leaves, threw them in an aluminium pot and boiled them up. Meanwhile I was soaking a pure white piece of knit fabric, and when I had boiled the leaves for just over an hour, I threw in the fabric and turned off the heat. I then stirred, and fretted, and finally took the fabric out, rinsed it and decided that it had just gone a dirty off-white colour. My pot, on the other hand, turned a lovely shade of minty green!


I was a bit despondent and thought I would launder the fabric and see if I could get it back to white and to my astonishment it turned into this very cafe au lait colour, which is really only obvious when placed next to another piece of white fabric.


This isn’t the colour I was looking for, and I’ve since discovered that I should have used fallen leaves, rather than freshly picked leaves, and crushed them a bit. Then brought them to the boil and simmered for an hour and a half. Apparently if the leaves begin to smell unpleasant, then they are overcooked. Experiment #2 will be conducted at Easter!

Meanwhile I had a request from Archie for a couple of sleeveless t-shirts. I made the first one and before I hemmed it I asked him to try it on to check the length, etc, and then couldn’t get him to give it back! He was busy building us an outdoor shower which is why he’s covered in sawdust.


I managed to establish that it was a bit short so added a band to the bottom of the second one. Please note that it is not dirty, this is the first time he’s worn the shirt, but I think it’s picked up some of the colour of the cupboard. I couldn’t get him to go outside for a photo and I wasn’t allowed to get his head in! When I gave him the shirt it was neatly pressed but it’s clearly been tossed in a corner in the interim.

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He’s put in an order for more of these, made to the correct length and he only wants grey, so I’m going to have to dye some of the mounds of white knit fabric that I have in my stash.

In a nutshell: First dyeing attempt using Eucalyptus leaves on white knit fabric. Archie’s t-shirt pattern is rubbed off one of his existing t-shirts and both shirts are made in grey cotton knit from Knitwit.


13 thoughts on “Dyeing experiment and t-shirts

  1. Interesting experiment with the gum leaves. You sound like you are making the most of your long service leave with all your activities. Looks like the knit shirts for your son are a hit too.

  2. From what I’ve seen at the local gym, you’ve made the perfect tee for Archie. It’s loose. It’s the right length and width too. And he’s into the colour you’ve created. Neat!

  3. So glad you posted about this. I was wanting to do some dyeing with eucalyptus and other natural materials so am looking forward to hearing about your exploits. So if I need a cafe au lait coloured fabric, now I know what to do! And the t-shirt looks great – those photos made me laugh.

  4. Your commentary is hilarious Sue! I like the cafe colour, great experimenting!
    grey t-shirt is a good fit on Archie. He’s very clever building the outdoor shower!

  5. The perfect t-shirt for Archie and the outdoor shower does sound impressive.

    I would be very pleased with your dyeing experiment, love the look of the cafe au lait. It will be interesting to see what colour the fallen leaves turn as they are going brown.

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