Lesson Plans:
Dye Sample Journal

Grades/Subjects: 10-12 Art
Related Subjects: Chemistry

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Students will learn to dye yarn and fabric with modern dyes imitating colors that were produced from plant materials commonly used during the Craft Revival period.
  2. They will make a sewn book journal out of their dyed yarn and cotton cut outs.
  3. The concept of dyeing and the chemical process can be further pursued by working with a science teacher.

Teacher Planning:

This lesson can be completed in two 90 minute class periods.

Teacher preparation time will include time to examine the Craft Revival website to find the most efficient search path for the topics covered, such as actual instructions written on how to dye with indigo.

Teacher can also examine books related to dyeing and the time period, and explore modern dyeing information via books or internet.

  1. Clothesline and outdoor drying area can be set up by students.
  2. Students may be asked to bring in small plastic containers to hold dye.


  • Internet access
  • Pre-washed/bleached cotton fabric 5”x7” rectangles and skein of thin wool yarn
  • 2 additional cotton sheets, either 6”x7" or 5”x8"-One inch longer in any direction
  • Sticks
  • Conventional store bought dyes that will imitate the colors produced with alum-mordanted materials:
    • Madder
    • Indigo
    • Black walnut
    • Limber honeysuckle
  • Others:
    • Sumac
    • Spruce
    • Willow
    • Laurel leaves
  • Large sewing needles
  • Fine tip permanent markers
  • Thin paint brushes
  • Layered blank newsprint
  • Masking tape
  • Rubber gloves
  • Plastic dipping containers


  1. On lesson day, teacher will engage students in a discussion about period dyeing techniques, referring to dyeing. Teacher can explain how the material was prepared with a mordent, such as alum. 1
  2. Students will go to the website and find images of plant sources for dyes. They will be instructed to pencil-sketch outlines of the plants on paper.
  3. Using permanent marker, students will outline their sketches of each plant source onto the fabric, then label or further describe what they recall about each.
  4. After selecting color for the yarn, students will dye it, following the procedure for modern chemical dyes, and then hang it out to dry.
  5. Students will tape down each of their sketched cotton sheets on newsprint and then apply the corresponding color dye.
  6. They may decorate the two additional longer cotton sheets for the covers.
  7. Once the yarn is dry, students will line up the covers and roll the side of the journal with the additional length around the stick.
  8. Using a needle, poke 3 or 4 holes into the excess fabric, and through the entire journal.
  9. They may then get ready to sew the yarn through in any fashion that binds the stick to the rest of the journal, and then tie a knot to secure it.


Students may evaluate their success with technique and understanding of dyeing methods through an informal critique facilitated by teacher. The journals may be put on display for an in class critique.


Invite chemistry teacher to be involved in the project in the initial planning stages and then other ways, such as developing a joint project or having her/him come to class as an advisor. Science teacher can aid students in exploring how chemical reactions work. If dyes and fabric are to be prepared ahead of time, or as a part of a lesson for upper grades, refer to the techniques of authors on the subject (see bibliography).

Although this lesson is designed for a high school art class, it is a reflection on grade 2 regional social studies learning objectives, specifically the Southern Appalachian region.


North Carolina Curriculum Alignment:

  • Art Objectives 2.02, 5.02 
  • Chemistry Goal 5


- Jada Hansen