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Art & Art History

Natural Dye Workshop

Saturday, July 18, 2015
Julia de Burgos Park
400 S. Peoria St.

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Gallery 400 and the Chicago Park District invite you to join us for a natural dye workshop in Julia de Burgos Park with artist Marianne Fairbanks.

Participants are invited to take in the beauty and complexity of their natural surroundings, gather twigs, leaves, bottle caps–anything they find around the park–and use them to make impressions with natural dyes on cloth that we provide.

Marianne Fairbanks is a textile artists and former resident of Humboldt Park. She has created numerous textiles using objects and dyes made out of material found in our surroundings. Her work Patchwork Pall is on display at Gallery 400 as part of the exhibition After Today.

The workshop meets in Julia de Burgos Park—at the corner of Albany and Bloomingdale—in front of the 606 trail entrance. Participation in this workshop is free, but space is limited. To register, contact Anthony Stepter at

Directions for Natural Dye Activity:


Materials to use: onion skins, beet root peelings, wilted cut flowers/plants, tea leaves, coffee grounds…
You can use plant material right after it is gathered, but leaves also work well if slightly dried first, press in a large heavy book and then moisten with a spray bottle before use.


  • Cloth will accept natural dye better if it is pretreated with a mordant. Alum Acetate is effective in a hot bath to pretreat the bandannas/napkins. The metal helps the plant color for the plant to stay on the cloth. You can find Alum in the grocery store in the baking section.
  • Lay materials out on a damp mordanted cloth.
  • Place protective cloth over your design and then fold in half twice.
  • Roll up the cloth tightly and tie firmly with string or bind with rubber bands.
  • Variation: apply left-over liquid from other dye bath with spray bottle.
  • Allow bundle to cool completely before opening. Wipe of excess plant material and then press with steam iron (use a pressing cloth).

Variation: Post-mordant with an iron bath (or spray on) and observe the colors change.

Variation: Create a tea-bag or stocking full of plant material and use it as the core of the bundle.

Many of these materials including the bandanna, mordant and natural dyes can be purchased on or