black bean dye

Black Bean Dye

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Beans. I’m not a fan.

However,  black bean dye has the potential to make my favorite color – teal blue.

The first time I soaked black beans for 24 hours, I was wowed by the purple. Purple!

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Black Bean purple dye

I finally felt inspired to experiment with dyes for the first time in a long time. This color lit a fire under my creative ass. Three minutes of online research taught me this:

  • Black bean dye is a cold dye (or a solar dye)
  • Heat kills the color. Don’t use heat
  • Use alum as a mordant

Ok. Got it. I threw this project together in about 10 minutes:

  • One 3 oz skein of 100% wool (not mordanted)
  • Tossed it into the bean water (sans beans)
  • A pinch of alum
  • Swished it around
  • Put it on my front porch
  • Went to work all week
  • Checked on it the following weekend

 

Black bean dye
Yep, that’s frozen mold.

 

black bean dye
Yep, frozen dye.

 

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Laziest. Dye. Ever.

I’ll call this color Frozen Almost Purplish. Not bad for 10% effort. But I knew I could do better.

The following weekend I tried it again:

  • Soaked a bag of beans for 24 hours.
  • Poured the water into my jar.
  • Most important new step — tested the pH of the water.

If I want blue, the dye must be alkaline. My dye water started at pH7. I added 2 tsps of washing soda, which bumped it up to pH10. The color went from purple to green. Lovely, but that’s too alkaline to make blue. I poured in the last bit of bean water to add a little acidity, and added my wool (2-3oz skein).

I also didn’t leave it outside. I placed the dye jar on top of my fridge in my warm kitchen. Not sure this changes the dye, but it was worth a shot.

A warning — not only does this dye stink after a day or two, it contains  pressure. When I opened it a few days later, the top popped off (pinching my finger), and the yarn looked  eager to burst out like a trapped beast. I called it done.

GORGEOUS. I’m not a fan of eating beans, but I’ll dye with them any day.

 

 

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “Black Bean Dye

  1. This looks beautiful!
    I am really interested in getting natural blues and purples, but a lot of them have serious fading issues. Do you have any insight or experience with the colorfastness of beans?

    1. This is my first experience dyeing with beans, so I don’t have experience with their colorfastness *yet*. Doing a premordant on the yarn (with alum when using beans) should be a huge help with colorfastness. I was also warned that this dye would fade, but I didn’t let it stop me. I was told the same about my blackberry dyed yarn, and it’s still a lovely purple several years later. And honestly — I dye because I enjoy the process. Most natural dyes slowly fade over time; some fade faster than others. Blues and purples are notorious for fading the fastest.If it fades over time, that’s fine. I’ll just dye it again. 🙂

      1. I totally agree! I have some blackberry dyed yarns in knitted pieces from years ago and I think they fade less than people say (they get grey for sure, but it’s still a pretty grey-purple). I also premordant – but I read about how you added sugar and think that’s a great idea!

  2. These are gorgeous results! I’ve tried black beans in the past but my results were a bit bland so I’ve never attempted it again but now I want to! May I ask, is the wool you use superwash? I’ve noticed people tend to get better results with black beans when it is. Thanks!

    Claire
    http://flossiknitwear.tumblr.com/

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