The coffee filter project, giant coffee filters recycled from the Starbucks trash, turned out quite nice. The filters are great paper for mixed media projects since the paper has a luxurious feel. The pictures show me wearing plastic bags on my hands recycling the Starbucks garbage. It wasn't that bad. There's only fresh coffee grounds in there and they smell good.
The next photo is the onion skins cooking in an enamel pot (other surfaces will harm the dyebath). Water is even with the skins. We have about 12 cups of well packed dye material. After simmering it for the morning we added 1 tsp of alum so the color will stay. This is called the "mordant." It not only sets the color, but affects the final color. There are other mordants you can use such as baking soda, cream of tartar, a nail (iron) etc. but many mordants can be dangerous for your health. I've never used a nail, but the other two I can recommend no problem.
One of the women at King's Landing , a historical reenactment museum where I used to work, believes her severe skin problems came about from her experiments with mordants and they can cause respiratory issues as well. If you really get into dying your own materials, and want to try different things, it's tempting to skip the research and plunge in, but from what I've seen this may be dangerous.
Stitching the filters gave us some interesting patterns. Here is the book we use as a resource: Natural Dyes and Home Dyeing by Rita J Adrosko and for the greatest eye candy and source of inspiration I've ever seen: India Flint. She has books and does international workshops-even in Canada. Whoop!! Her blog is: Not all those who wander are lost.
Remember making paper snowflakes? This is the same thing except we stitch the folds shut so that there are some areas where the dye won't penetrate. That way we can get some patterns. After folding them and stitching them we dipped a few of them in a little bleach. Just on the corners. The coffee had already stained the paper, so to avoid a muddy gold the bleach gave us a white base. The ones we sprinkled bleach onto with a brush became very weak and tore easily. We lost several there, and the dog took another off the drying wrack to shred. That can't be healthy! Next time I'm going to iron on fusible webbing before starting the process to make them tougher (and yes keep Beena locked away from the drying wrack).
This is now ready to tear up and use in projects.