How to Naturally Dye Fabrics at Home

Do It Yourself

Dye at Home:

Ensure that the materials are ripe and mature before picking and using, and wear rubber gloves throughout the whole process.

Natural dyeing is unpredictable, and the colours aren’t always reproducible, but it’s fun nonetheless!

1. Fixing:

Before dyeing, you need to treat your chosen fabric with a fixative to ensure that the colour sets and doesn’t fade. Wash fabric thoroughly before any process.

As a recommendation:

  • Use salt for berry dyes – 1 part salt to 16 parts water
  • Vinegar for plant dyes – 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water
  • Baking Soda – 1/2 cup baking soda to 1 gallon water
  • Alum (Potassium aluminium sulphate) – use 15% of the weight of the fabric you intend to dye. Optional: Use with Cream of Tartar (6% of the weight of fabric) for a cleaner colour.

Stir in your chosen fixative to cold water, then add your fabric. Simmer gently for 30 or so, then leave to cool.

Be sure to gently rinse before adding to the dye bath.

2. Dyeing:

Chop the plant matter into small pieces and add to a pot or spare saucepan, then add water – twice the amount of water to plant material usually does the trick.  Simmer for about 30 minutes to an hour before straining and adding your wet fabric. Simmer together until the fabric has reached a desired colour, or, soak in the dye overnight for a more saturated colour.

Bear in mind that colours will always be lighter when dry.

Colour alterations can also be achieved by adjusting the pH of the dye solution with acidic and alkaline substances. For instance, vinegar can be used to acidify the dye bath, whilst baking soda will make it alkaline. Why not experiment and see what you create?

Remember to wash separately in cold water afterwards!

Try your own!

Easy suggestions:

  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Blueberries
  • Daffodil flower heads
  • Onions
  • Blackberries
  • Coffee grinds
  • Nettles
  • Black Beans
  • Raspberries
  • Sunflowers
  • Walnuts
  • Avocado skins and stones
  • Basil
  • Strawberries
  • Dandelions – the roots alone can produce a different colour to the whole plant, so try both!
What colours did you make?

Some plants and mordants may be toxic. Always wear gloves and never ingest the plants, dyes, or other substances. Please seek immediate medical attention if you believe you’ve been poisoned.
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