Raffia is a versatile fibre harvested from the raffia palm tree. Harvested mainly in Madagascar and exported around the world, raffia fibre is a popular choice for making items such as hats, mats and baskets. Dried raffia is a natural light tan colour. Many suppliers offer a selection of dyed raffia, but if you are working on a project that requires a particular colour of raffia and your supplier does not offer the colour you need, you can colour the raffia yourself.
Fill a sink with hot tap water. If the raffia is in a tied bundle, loosen the tie and separate the strands of raffia slightly. Immerse the raffia in the hot water and let it soak for one hour.
Remove the raffia from the hot water and let the excess water drain off. Put on old clothes, rubber gloves and a dust mask.
Measure out 2 tbsp of dye powder and place in a small non-aluminium mixing container. Add 1 tbsp of water and mix with a spoon until it becomes a smooth paste.
Place 1 tbsp of the dye paste in a 2-gallon-capacity non-aluminium pot. Add 1/4 cup of hot tap water to dissolve the paste.
Add 1 gallon of hot tap water to the pot. Using a long-handled mixing spoon, stir in 1/2 cup of salt until it dissolves.
Place the wet raffia in the dye bath, immersing it completely and ensuring that the dye can reach all of the strands of raffia. Turn the raffia over every 10 minutes with tongs or gloved hands.
Monitor the raffia for the developing colour. When the raffia is twice as dark as the colour you desire (it will dry lighter), stop the dye action by "fixing" the dye.
Mix 1/3 cup of soda ash with 1 cup of hot tap water in a separate container until dissolved. Pour this solution into the dye bath and stir to mix.
Remove the raffia from the dye bath anytime within two hours of pouring in the soda ash solution fixative. Once the dye is "fixed," it will not add additional colour to the raffia. Leaving the raffia in the water longer than two hours may harm the strands.
Rinse the raffia under cool running water until the water runs clear. Place the raffia on a dish drainer or wire rack to allow air circulation as the raffia dries.
- Keep your dyeing supplies separate from your kitchen supplies. Do not use spoons, measuring cups and pots that have been in contact with dyes for food preparation.