I Can Make A Coat of Many Colors

Scripture: Genesis 37

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will review the story of Joseph focusing especially on the coat of many colors.
  • Students will learn clothing in bible times had to be dyed in colors which could be created using items from nature.
  • Students will learn about the colored dyes which can be created from items found in nature.
  • Students will participate in an activity to help them discover what colored dyes can be made using item from nature.

Guiding Question: What items from nature can be used to create colored dyes for clothing and other items?

Materials: 1-2 inch square pieces of fabric for each student (note: fabric must be 100% cotton, linen or wool to dye well), vats or bowls of natural dyes, items used to make natural dyes, white cardstock, glue sticks, pens

Procedure: At home, fill pots with water, a pot for each (different) item found in nature. Bring water to boil, them reduce heat to the lowest setting. Let simmer for at least an hour. Remove from heat and allow it to cool. Remove natural items. For berries add 1 part salt to 16 parts of the dyed water. For all other plant products add 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water. Place finished dyes in containers where students can drop in pieces of fabric with the color being difficult to see. (note: good items to use include onion skins, tea, berries, beets, spinach, orange peel, outer leaves of cabbage, marigolds, cherries, basil, camellia – red flowers yield green dye, peppermint, coffee grounds, walnut shells, bay leaves, fresh green leaves yield yellow dye, etc.)

When students arrive, review the story of Joseph, focusing especially on the coat of many colors. Tell students in bible times all clothing that had colors were made from natural dyes. Explain that today natural dyes are most often used in crafts. Hold up items similar to ones you used to create your dyes. (ex. An onion if you used onion skins). Ask students what color of dye they think will be produced by the items. Record their suggestions.

Allow each student to drop one square of fabric into each vat of dye. (Because they are cold, the fabric will not dye really well unless left overnight. You may want to have pre-dyed fabric to show) Once fabric begins to show color, have students create a chart on a piece of paper. The chart will have room to glue the dried dyed fabric, and them list the natural item and the color it produced.

Additional Questions:

  • Why do companies use synthetic dyes or natural dyes?

Supplemental Activity: Have interested students research the pros and cons of synthetic and natural dyes. Have them share their findings with the class.

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