Weekly updates from BLDG 25

Wednes-DIY: Making Natural Dyes

I have been wanting to experiment with natural dyes for a while now, and with all the great new fall colors that have been popping up on our website (and featured in our monochromatic trend) I decided that it was time. This is such a fun, environmentally friendly project that takes a little time, but very little cash.

For today’s DIY I’ll tell you about what natural ingredients you can use to make natural dyes, and what shades of color they will yield.

What I got: red cabbage, lemons, oranges, beets, yellow onions, blackberries, blueberries, spinach.

For bluish/purple dyes:



Blackberries and red cabbage can be used to make bluish/purple dyes.  It’s important to remember when working with natural dyes that experimentation is key – depending on the amount of ingredients you use and how long you leave a garment in the dye, the color you get can vary.

For pinkish/red dyes:




Beets and blueberries can make a really lovely dusty rose color.

For copper/orange dyes:



I never realized what a beautiful color yellow onions can have! Their skins can make an alluring mustard yellow, coppery color.

For yellow dyes:




Orange and lemon peels can be used to make a soft pale yellow dye.

For green dyes:



Finally, spinach can be used to make a beautiful shade of green.

Now what?

To make the dye, chop up your ingredients and put them in a pot with twice as much water as ingredients.  Bring the water to a boil and let simmer for an hour.  For deeper colors, you can leave the ingredients in the water (without heat) overnight.

Remove the hard materials from the mixture with a strainer, leaving you with the liquid dye.

Before dyeing, you will also need to create a fixative, which will help your fabric hold the dye.

When working with berries, use a salt fixative – put 1/2 cup of salt in 8 cups of water, put the fabric in and boil for one hour.

When working with vegetables, use a vinegar fixative – mix one part vinegar and four parts water, add your fabric and boil for one hour.

When you remove the fabric, rinse in cold water.

The fabric is now ready to dye! Just drop it in the desired color, let sit until it reaches the shade you want, remove and hang to dry.

I am going to make my dyes and start experimenting this weekend – I’ll share my results next week!

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Chelsea Ward -August 31, 2011, 5:46PM

Yay! I’m so excited for this DIY! I’m currently working as a nanny in Italy for a family that lives above the restaurant they run, on top of a mountain! A little too isolated to find premade dyes, kits etc, but these will be perfect to introduce the child to tie-dying! Thank you!

ladysadie -August 31, 2011, 5:56PM

You rock, thank you so much! I had been on the mad hunt for simple & clear natural dye info just this last week because I love those earthy, warm colors. Hurray!

Taylor -August 31, 2011, 6:55PM

I have been wanting to dye clothes for a while now. I will try it this week! :)

kk -August 31, 2011, 6:59PM

This is amazing! I’ll be giving this baby a try soon.

Kat -August 31, 2011, 11:28PM

I was just wondering how to do this a couple of weeks ago. I especially like the onion color. Thank you so much for breaking it down!

Brooke -September 1, 2011, 12:38AM

This is an awesome idea! I’ve never seen it before now. And it looks fun too! I’ll definitely try it!

Bec -September 1, 2011, 8:34AM

….I have been doing research on sustainable dye methods for about 6 months now and my bible is India Flint’s book, Eco Colour…for more key bits to achieving color

Judi -September 5, 2011, 12:20PM

well i’m sad sad sad, I tried this with the spinach over the weekend, one with the cold brew and the other boiled down, and nothing stuck. and believe you me, vinegar plus spinach smells in the apt over two days is NOT pleasant. anyone else have any luck? :(

mckenna -September 8, 2011, 7:43AM

I tried this with the blackberries.. beautiful color. washed out :( I was really bummed out about this.. lol. I still love the DIY projects!!!

Shannon -September 30, 2011, 4:39PM

THANK YOU! Ah I love experimenting with natural beauty, & TIP: Walnut shells/hulls can be used to achieve dark brown color, and I’ve found a recipe that calls for 4 walnut shells, 1 cup water, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. vinegar to make ink :)

andrea edelson -December 28, 2011, 3:34PM

love free people

Colleen -February 18, 2012, 4:25PM

I love this idea! I’m always looking for new ways to do my arts and crafts naturally. I saw this and I couldn’t believe I had never heard of this technique. It’s definitely one I’m going to have to try. I’ve used rit before to dye fabrics before and of course the tie dye kits… but I’m wondering if using soda ash will help the color stay longer. Thanks for the idea!

Gracie -July 14, 2012, 11:10AM

Oh my gosh! I am so happy i finally found out how to do this. i’ve always wandered, but now i know how. thank you so much for sharing this wonderfully simple idea with all of us!!!!! ;) stay cool in this heat!

Andrew -August 7, 2012, 1:45PM

Hey guys, I have a question about these dyes. My grandma used to make Ukrainian Easter Eggs, she passed away but I kept her equipment. I was hoping I could make my own dyes for the eggs but every tutorial I find seems to be based around dying fabric. Will these dyes work for eggs as is? Should I still add salt to the original mixture? Any advice is much appreciated!

priscilla -October 25, 2012, 12:31PM


I am an art educator for a children’s museum adn my monthly art studio for the month of November will be painting with vegetable dyes and ink. I am curious how long I can keep the dyes before tehy go bad. Should I make a large batch and freeze??

Thanks for your help and your beautiful blog!

Ashley -October 31, 2012, 9:42AM

Do I not rinse after I pull it out of the dye?

Lia -November 20, 2012, 6:18AM

Brilliant idea! Love your blog!

英文SEO -December 19, 2012, 2:57AM


Pabla -January 8, 2013, 3:33PM

This post is great! I was wondering if there is a particular type of fabric that will hold the dyes better? Such as cotton, linen, or wool for example?

Evan -January 11, 2013, 8:45AM

Great break down. 2 cups of yellow onion skins with 8 cups of water make a fabulous dye for eggs as well. For “Andrew” try searching Skrobanki – Traditional Polish Egg Scratching which also utilizes Natural dyes.

John -February 12, 2013, 11:01PM

Used this for my science project, thanks for the info !

Mog -April 11, 2013, 10:26AM

I used to do ‘tie die’ in the 60’s and loved the amazingly different effects you could achieve. now I am in my 60’s, unfortunately, am going on hols and want to make a pareo, one of those things you wrap round over your cosi to hide your legs! ordered some muslin on line and want to use natural dyes too. can’t wait for the muslin to arrive to experiment.

Shelby -April 17, 2013, 5:02PM

I have a question! I want to dye my formal dress using natural dye but I dont want to just make it one color. Is there any way to maybe mix the natural dyes together and then soak the dress in it or will that just turn a murky brown color?

Carol -May 9, 2013, 12:20PM

Use a tsp. of alum per gallon of water you are using instead of the salt or vinegar and make sure your fabric is cotton or something natural.

Carol -May 9, 2013, 12:21PM

Use a tsp. of alum per gallon of water you are using instead of the salt or vinegar and make sure your fabric is cotton or something else that is also natural.

Rick -May 10, 2013, 11:29AM

Has anyone tried with various colored peppers?

Nick -August 15, 2013, 9:11AM

Hi – really excited will be teaching art and design in a primary setting in September and will be looking at natural materials and process. These dyes is lesson one. Thanks alot.

Tanner -October 4, 2013, 11:12AM

I need an organic dye for dying bird seed for a project. Can you help? Is the recipe you have above the one I would use?

Ecaterina -October 4, 2013, 3:06PM

Any ideas for dying black?!?
great article!

amanda -October 8, 2013, 1:57PM

You make it sound so easy . . here we go!

K -November 11, 2013, 10:32AM

It didn’t work here…
Never rinse your work.
You’ll end up were you started, with a white piece of fabric.

What did I do wrong?..

Marie -November 15, 2013, 7:27PM

Natural dyes seem to work best on light colored wool or silk and not cotton. That may be why some people’s dyes did not stay after rinsing.

You must rinse out the dye after you dip fabric or clothing or else the dye can rub off onto your body if you are wearing the piece later.

Also when you pre-soak (also called mordanting) your fabric in the salt solution, do not rinse it but allow it to dry and then dye it or dye it from wet but do not rinse out the salt solution. That would undo all your work of soaking it and having it absorb the solution which helps the natural dye adhere to the fabric particles. Always mordant your fabric or your colors are more likely to fade away. Never dry natural dyed fabrics in the sun as this will fade them more quickly.

These are some other natural materials that make great dyes:

Tumeric- Light to Dark yellow orange
Marigold Flowers- Light to Dark yellow
Cochineal (Insects found on Prickly Pear cactus under white web, harmless)- Bright red to purple red

Rinse fabrics after dyeing and dip in an after-bath of water + iron , water+ soda ash, or vinegar/citrus juice to change the colors further. Rinse after placing in the after-bath.

Happy Dyeing!

Pat -February 4, 2014, 5:10AM


Tayla -February 23, 2014, 8:55PM

i need help i dont know how to make natural red dye i need some ones help if u can help then can u plz contact me at my email address so then i know i need to know how to so i can dye a bday presant thx

Deloris Penn -March 2, 2014, 12:23AM

I love the mustard yellow! I’m looking forward to offering naturally dyed accessories and decor on my website in the near future!

Karen Astrid -April 3, 2014, 10:45PM

I work with Procion cold water dyes, but I am really in love with the beets and onion colours. So I am going to give it a whirl.
this is my plan: I will dry my natural fabric after soaking in the fixative. And I’ll dry slowly.
Same thing after soaking fabric in the coloured dye bath. I will soak for an hour, let the excess run off and then let rest rolled up in plastic overnight. Hang dry the next day. Not in sunlight or hot situation, someplace cool. Don’t rinse in hot water. Rinse in cool.
We will see what happens. My guess is that I think it will still wash out but not as readily.

saba -May 13, 2014, 4:00PM

Has anybody ever tried henna? I am wondering about your experience.

Anonymous -July 24, 2014, 2:20PM

What would happen if you used more than one vegetable for one dye? For instance if I used beets and onions; what would happen?

heidi -August 18, 2014, 12:55PM

I have tried the natural dyes which are beautiful, but they all seem to fade and turn brownish when I wash the clothes. Any suggestions for preserving the colors?

Marli -February 10, 2015, 9:20PM

Do you have to let the fabric simmer? Would the dye work just as well if you allow it to cool before adding the fabric?

Aleen -June 9, 2015, 11:57AM

We are doing and researching the natural dyes, already tried many colors. Plan to offer some clothing and bedding in the further. Also love to discuss with all who like DIY natural dye. Just start and share at pinterest.

Arway -August 4, 2015, 6:40AM

Can these dye be use on leather for bag making. If so once the dye is acquire can use the same procedure be used to fixative the leather?

Bernadette -August 8, 2015, 3:44AM

any ideas on how to create a dark charcoal colour?

Diana -September 9, 2015, 10:33PM

Thanks for the great tips!
I’m wondering if the fixative process can be done before hand and let dry before dying?

trade80silks -December 3, 2015, 8:13AM

Used this for my science project, thanks for the info Thanks

trade80silks -December 3, 2015, 8:15AM

Thanks for the great tips.

B -April 21, 2016, 10:13AM

I just tried the spinach dye on a top. It came out yellow, not green. There were also some weird streaks of bright yellow that looked like a hand print in one area. The vinegar solution worked, but now I wish it hadn’t as there was no saving it. I threw it away. :(
Maybe it would work better for things like lace trimmings.

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