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Friday, March 5, 2010

It's to Dye For!

This experiment is very messy, so be sure that you have an adult's permission to do it, and that you spread lots of plastic, newspaper, or other kind of protection. It's also a good idea to wear rubber gloves, because these dyes can stain your hands. The dye will eventually wear off, but it may take a few days!

What You'll Need:
6" x 6" square pieces of plain white cotton cloth (an old white sheet works well)
Plastic zip-top bags (sandwich size)
Hammer or mallet
Plastic cups
Strainer or cheesecloth
Tongs or tweezers
Pot holder
Rubber gloves
Microwave oven
Deeply colored plant materials, such as tea leaves, coffee grounds, spinach, red cabbage, berries, carrots, onion skins, turmeric (a spice), nut shells, or flowers

Put each plant matter into a plastic bag, zip the top, and mash the material with the hammer or mallet. Carefully open the bag, and pour the contents into a plastic cup. Don't fill the cup more than one-quarter full with plant material. Add water so that the cup is one-half to two-thirds full (use more water, the more plant material you have).

Put the cup into the microwave oven and heat on high for 10 minutes. The water should take on the color of the plant matter. Carefully remove the cups from the microwave (they will be VERY hot!). Using the tongs or tweezers, slowly place a piece of cloth into the solution. Make sure that it sinks down below the surface. Put the cup and cloth in a safe place and let it sit overnight. Repeat this process for any other plant materials you want to experiment with.

Put on your rubber gloves, and remove the cloth from the dye solution. Take the cloth to the sink and squeeze it. Then rinse under cool water. Has it taken on the color of the dye solution? How dark is it? Place the cloth somewhere that it can dry without getting too hot (don't put it in the clothes dryer). Does the color get darker or lighter when the cloth dries? Store your dyed cloth pieces where they are exposed to light. Does the color stay the same, or does it change?

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