For our newest unit study about the Alamo, Texas and Mexican history, I wanted to focus on a science activity that pioneers living during that time would do, which is cloth dyeing.
Pioneer Living | Hands-on History
Pioneer living and cloth dyeing go hand in hand though I’m sure pioneers of that time weren’t too concerned about many different colors in their clothes. They normally just had a few pieces of clothing.
However, when they did want color, they knew a lot about nature and how to get the colors they wanted.
Pioneers and Native Americans living on the frontier knew about insects, flowers and vegetables that could be cooked up and used for color.
This method of dyeing cloths has been used from ancient civilizations down to modern times.
In our Ancient Civilization unit study (studying Pirates) we learned about how Phoenicians used a shellfish, called a Murex to make purple dye. The name Phoenician comes from a Greek word that means purple men. Purple has come to symbolize wealth, royalty and high office.
Also, though when we lived in South America, we learned about natural dyeing when we took a family field trip to a family owned weaving and dyeing business.
It is always a fascinating project to learn about and we thought we would try it again with some things we had in our refrigerator and one or two things we bought (I can’t stand beets – yuck) to experiment with.
Look at what we gathered up.
- Walnuts. Since we’ve done this before, we wanted to experiment with a different color than black from the opened hull. So we added whole walnuts to some cracked hulls and got a really pretty golden color.
- Kale. This was the first time for this and we loved the lighter color and wonder what we could have added to make it brighter or maybe boiled it longer.
- Onion skins. We used a red onion because we had them and it made an orange-ish color.
- Beets. We loved the lighter color.
- Blackberries. We added salt and vinegar to it to get a more vibrant color.
- Old or new diaper. Clean of course (wink). We used an old one to cut up into blocks for fabric swatches.
Then we added water to four pots or pans and brought it to a boil.
After it boiled, we turned the burner down and let it simmer for about an hour on real low.
We’re thinking, the longer it simmers, the darker the color after we read about how Native Americans did it.
Then we soaked the cotton fabric in the solution overnight.
There is no limit to natural materials you can use to explore and have fun with. We really had a lot of fun with this.
And, we found inspiration from this post on Pioneer Thinking: Making Natural Dyes from Plants, which categorizes colors by natural material to use. It is a great post to get some ideas and tips from.
Too, you may want to check out my post that goes great with this unit study, which is How To Make An Easy Ink pot & Quill Pen with Berry Ink.
I think all of your kids will love this activity and especially if you let them pick out the flowers, nuts and vegetables they want to use and do some color mixing too.
This is such a great open ended exploration activity to include all ages.
Hugs and love ya,
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