Crafting a Natural Paper Dye
Making Valentine’s Day cards is our favorite thing about Valentine’s Day: it’s always nice when we can settle in at home, make ourselves a hot drink, and take some time to express our love for friends and family, especially when it means a temporary respite from February’s dreary cold.
Plus, although the commercialization of Valentine’s Day might sometimes overshadow its more meaningful qualities, homemade, personal gestures like this help us to revive and celebrate the message of love at the holiday’s core.
Inspired by our interest in craft and belief in the inherent value of handmade items, we set out to teach ourselves and experiment with the all-natural dyeing process we’re using today to make our valentines. It goes without saying that natural dyes have been around long before synthetic dyes, and in our opinion the natural process still provides such better colors: they have a certain depth, complexity and living quality to them compared to the more one-dimensional synthetic dyes.
Plus, the natural dyes we make are safe and non-toxic, and provide a great way to have a hand in your project from the raw organic materials to your finished piece. It is truly incredible what pigments come from such common ingredients and harmless practices.
For this occasion, beets provide the perfect, deep magenta. Ever experimenting, we made paper using our own recycled office paper, but that can be another project for another blog—you can also use store-bought paper and get amazing results. As for what kind of paper to look out for, we suggest getting something a bit more absorbent like watercolor paper, but computer paper will also work.
You will need:
1 to 2 pounds of beets, depending on how deep you would like the color of your dye
¼ cup of white vinegar
4 cups of water
A medium stainless steel pot
White paper (watercolor paper works best)
A drop cloth and a drying line
- Cut beets into ½ inch pieces and place them in your pot.
- Add water and vinegar and bring to a boil.
- Once water hits a boil, bring the mixture down to a simmer. Let it simmer for 1 hour.
- Using a strainer or cheese cloth, strain dye into a bowl and let it cool until you can work with it easily—you don’t want it to be too hot to touch.
- Briefly dip paper and hang it to dry. We also like to ‘splatter paint’ or brush our paper with the dye; if you do this, just let it dry flat on a counter or table.
Dye as much paper as you need! The process will create naturally beautiful and lovely hand-dyed paper—perfect for those heartfelt valentines for the special people in your life.