When we were in Italy last year, the produce was AMAZING. The city where we were living had a weekly market that was one of the largest open-air markets in Europe. We ate fresh olives, artichokes, purple cauliflower and blood oranges on a daily basis. I miss it dearly.
Last week, back home in Florida, Sprouts Farmer's Market had a special on a bag of blood oranges and I jumped on it, reminiscing about Italy. As soon as they arrived, I realized they were less than ideal... wrinkly browning skin and very little flavor. BUT, when I was peeling and attempting to eat the first orange I was just blown away by the color. I think because they were a little overripe, they were even more deep purple than the tasty blood oranges I had eaten before. There was one orange in the batch that was tasty and scratched my itch for the blood orange flavor, but with the rest, I decided I was going to try to do something with the fabulous color rather than just toss them.
Being in the upcycling and textile space, I see amazing things that people are revamping with natural food-based dyes. I have always been intrigued by them and a few weeks ago I tried an onion skin dye. The result was pretty but a lot of work for the yellowish off-white color produced. It really is interesting, because a year ago, before I started sewing and upcycling and experimenting with textiles, I probably wouldn't have jumped into attempting to hand dye. But since I had already previously taken the plunge to begin altering clothing and fabrics, it felt like less of a hurdle to just try it.
As an aside, conventional textile dye has a HUGE effect on the environment. Approximately 10-15% of the dye used to color fabrics are washed out and end up in the environment. Here they pollute our waterways and water systems around the globe. For example, in China in 2011, the Jian River ran red because of the illegal dumping of chemical dyes. These pollutants, in turn, affect the health of wildlife and humans as well. In September 2020, CNN put out an article entitled 'Our Colorful Clothes are Killing the Environment' if you'd like more reading material.
I went and dug in my stash of fabric and garments to find an item that was white or white-ish and made of a natural material. I landed on a secondhand knit wrap from the brand Easel that was marked 'sample' and seemed to be made of a merino wool or cashmere. It's an item that has been floating around in my space for several years and I was never really sure what to do with it. It was the perfect item to dye because it had good bones but needed a little sprucing up.
I really just dove into it and peeled my oranges and mashed them up. I tend to have a problem where I fail to document these experiments because I don't have high hopes for the outcome and this is no exception, so I apologize for not having photos of the process.
The dye was extremely concentrated but not as much as I would have needed to get a consistent color, so I decided to try tie dying. I spiraled three segments of the wrap and then wrapped them with rubber bands. Then I soaked the fabric and plunged it into the purple bath. The soft wool quickly soaked up all the orange juice, so I played around for a while with squeezing the liquid out and re-soaking it up to make sure it penetrated throughout. Then I left the bowl outside for most of the day.
When I brought my project back inside I combined some white distilled vinegar with water and rinsed my fabric several times. Then I hand washed it under cool water and once there was consistently no color leaking out, I figured it was probably fairly color-safe. Finally, I hung the wrap in the shade to air dry.
All-in-all I think the color is fabulous. It completely re-vamped the look of the wrap into something I really want to wear. I don't know how well the color will last long-term but I would say it was a success!