Sunday, February 13, 2011

History is Alive :: Dyeing fabric like the Phonecians

Well these last few weeks we've been working on more ancient cultures of the Middle East. One of the cultures was the Phoenicians.

One thing we learned in our reading was that the Phoenicians used snails from the Mediterranean Sea to dye fabric a purple color. They were famous for the purple cloth they made and traded.

An idea in the activity book was to use purple cabbage to dye fabric. Easy enough.

First we made predictions about the smell of the boiling cabbage. We'd learned that the Phoenician cities that did the dyeing were very smelly places.

Then we let the cabbage boil for about an hour like the book suggested.

We strained out the cabbage pieces and put our muslin in to dye. I'd spent a couple hours the night before embroidering the letters of our names on each piece. One, we'd be able to tell them apart. Two, I thought it might be interesting to see if there was a difference in the way the cloth dyed verses the muslin cotton.

We rinsed the pieces in salt water and laid them out to dry.

But we got ugly, not purple but not muslin, colored cloth. And the house did stink (though #2 thought it smelled like broccoli, his favorite vegetable). I hadn't had one little ingredient the activity book listed for this activity, alum. I'm sure the results would have been better had I used it.

Not wanting to end our lesson with a flop. I went back to the activity book remembering there were a couple of options for getting purple fabric.

Break out the frozen blueberries.

Not wanting to use our beautiful berries we picked with our own hands I used a couple of old 1/2 used packages of store-bought blueberries I had languishing in the freezer. The book suggesting cooking for an hour but it didn't take nearly that long to get a nice syrup for our clothes. Strain the blueberries out and enter our cloth for a second dip.

And the house smelled better!

After a couple of hours in the blueberry syrup we rinsed again and laid out to dry. Beautiful purple fabric!

Another rinse a couple of days later and some pairings from the scrap basket and we had fun keepsakes from our Phoenician dyeing project.

This project also turned out to be a nice science lesson too! A lot of predicting of smells and results. We kept a record of the steps and what we thought would happen. Bonus!

Disclaimer: something I've been meaning to add...I've joined Amazon's Associates program so if you click on a link for a book I've told you about it'll go to the Amazon page. I guess (since it hasn't happened yet) that if someone makes a purchase because of the clicking through they did from my page I'll get a little token from Amazon. So I'll say thank you to you for clicking from here.

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