DIY Natural Dyes

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Update: This post originally ran on September 21st 2011 but we wanted to bring it back as a reminder of how fun and environmentally friendly natural dyes are!

It’s time to share the results of my natural dye experiment! This was such a fun project – I definitely recommend it as a great rainy day activity :) For my first experiment I used beets, onion skins and spinach.  While the spinach did not work (as one reader also mentioned after my previous post) I was really pleased with the beets and onion skins!

The beets were such a beautiful deep red color! I chopped them up and added water and when I started boiling the water turned red almost immediately.

For the onions, I peeled off the skins and used only that part – I have seen other examples of this online that yielded really nice results but I was actually doubtful that this would really work.  Turns out I was pleasantly surprised!

spinach

I had high hopes for the spinach… if anyone has tried this with spinach and gotten good results let me know what your secret is :)

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After bringing each ingredient to a boil, I let them simmer for an hour while I prepared the fabrics to dye.

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Since I was working with all vegetables, I used a fixative of four parts water and one part vinegar.  I let the fabric simmer in this mixture for an hour, while the dye ingredients were also simmering.

Finally, it’s time to see the results!

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I put the fabric in the dye and let it sit for a little while – the longer you let it sit, the deeper your shade of color will be. I removed the fabric when I felt like it had reached a nice shade of reddish pink – such a pretty color:

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I was happiest with the color I got from the onion skins – a beautiful amber that worked so well on the fabric.

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Wouldn’t it be cool to make friendship bracelets using naturally-dyed string?!

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By the next day, the fabric dyed with the beets faded into more of a light pink color, but it was still really pretty! I think next time, though, I would leave the fabric in the dye for longer.  The fabric dyed with onion skins actually held out really well, and I LOVE the color it created. I loved it so much, I tried it out on one of my Free People bras :)

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Now that I’ve got the technique down, I can’t wait to experiment and try to make more colors.  The drop cloths I was working on ended up looking tie-dyed, and now I want to try tie dying with natural dyes as well!

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If any of you have tried this, let me know what ingredients you’ve had success with!

For instructions on making natural dyes, view the post here:
Wednes-DIY: Making Natural Dyes

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Comments

Joana -September 21, 2011, 10:26AM

I think it worked really well! I’m gonna try it myself soon.

faery -September 21, 2011, 10:53AM

I need to try this. I love the earthy colors the vegetables create.. how does the color hold up when you wash it?
How about grass instead of spinach? I remember some pretty bad green stains on my knees as a kid..

Sheryl Decterow -September 21, 2011, 12:21PM

Check out http://www.aurorasilk.com for more detailed information on steadfast natural dyes. Beets are a good example of something that may superficially present a strong colour, but doesn’t fix well to fabric.

I’m impressed by the onion skin bra! Great job.

Whitney -September 21, 2011, 12:44PM

love the onion color! What if you tried asparagus or an artichoke for the green. Both leave a pretty color:]

Marcela -September 21, 2011, 1:36PM

I love those natural colors, I cannot wait to try this…I’ve never thought I would buy beets but now I definitely have to!! I was wondering if you have washed any of the items yet, do the colors stay right? Did you try tearing and ripping the spinach, they dye might seep out a little better!

fp julia -September 21, 2011, 3:10PM

I haven’t washed them yet, I will let you know what happens when i do!

Anonymous -September 21, 2011, 3:41PM

Ah, the bra looks like coffee was spilled all over it!

Evelyn Laing -September 21, 2011, 3:46PM

Another great natrual dye is tea, I boil water pop in a couple of tea bags,I had a lace top with 3/4 sleeves the white was a bit yellow,so I put it into a bowl of strong tea and loved the result,it came out a lovely creamy/amber colour, I wore that top until it almost fell apart.

Anonymous -September 21, 2011, 9:26PM

no more dyes – its boring

mel -September 21, 2011, 9:51PM

this is really cool. i really want to try it after seeing your results. i always thought doing natural dyes would be a difficult process so i’ve never tried it myself, but you made it seem fairly simple. i’m definitely trying it now!

Anonymous -September 22, 2011, 2:11AM

tumeric and marigold flowers both make for a really strong vintage yellow colour!

VASARE NAR -September 22, 2011, 3:31AM

oh wow thats brilliant! great idea :)

sarah v -September 22, 2011, 10:58AM

Try purple cabbage!

tina -September 27, 2011, 3:40AM

aaah that’s lovely and exactly what i was looking for! i’m sure i’ll try this soon

cami -September 29, 2011, 11:04AM

You can try with carrots and berries.. and some flower petals. I don’t remember so well but i think that with grass takes a really beautiful green.. Good luck! :)

sfc -October 5, 2011, 7:54PM

turmeric powder makes a really pretty golden yellow :)

Sherry -October 6, 2011, 11:59AM

I’d like to try this! What about a nice teal color? How would one achieve this color?

Anonymous -October 26, 2011, 2:31PM

I tryed to make natural dye with carrot and cabbage and it was way under par, it wlooked awesome after i poured and let it dry but once i washed it it was like it was never there : ( maybe someone has a technique to help the color set ??? Thanks & good luck!

camila cuellas -October 27, 2011, 6:46PM

this site helps me a lot because I’m studying to be a design and production of clothing, and tp is dyed with natural producctos and would like to know how tinie with red cabbage, thank you very much camila, then tell them how I was tp, kisses

Anonymous -October 28, 2011, 8:02PM

This is a really inspirational and useful one DIY !!!

knikkiii -November 18, 2011, 5:58PM

Ah this is great! I recently left some white clothes in bleach but I had so much going on at the time that I completely forgot about them. So, now I have yellow bleach stains on my clothes. :(

I’m definitely going to be giving them a makeover now!

Thanks for sharing!

arlene clark -January 15, 2012, 7:54AM

You can also use a red onion instead of the yellow onion. Never tried it but I have been saving the onion skins ever since I saw an episode of Little House on the Prairie where Laura asked for her mom’s onion skins so that she could dye some yarn. LOL

Selin -February 13, 2012, 6:02PM

I took Natural Dying class in college. I recommend you to use acorns for brown and dried saffron for bright yellow. And of course walnuts, just try them!

Ingrid McMasters -July 13, 2012, 2:03PM

This educational module explains why fresh spinach doesn’t work well. Try canned spinach. I’m going to go home and try it out tonight.

http://www.umaine.edu/nsfgk-12/images/PDFs/natdye.pdf

Try black beans too – yields really nice soft blues.

stella rose -October 22, 2012, 5:51AM

i like your idea of extracting natural dyes and am use them in my study

Stella -November 3, 2012, 7:50AM

Great tips to save money. Now I can have my colorful dresses.

Tamberine -November 3, 2012, 12:13PM

With some plants you need mordants for the color to stay. I recommend Sasha Duerr’s book for more info on this. India Flint and Rebecca Burgess are great and work with natural dyes too.

Hai-Yen -November 4, 2012, 6:50AM

I’ve already saw this post and I still like this DIY :)

paige -November 5, 2012, 1:08AM

rust dyeing is another great natural dye and you can get some interesting patterns especially on fabrics like silk or velvet, depending on the shape and size of the rusty object you use…

I rust dyed a silk velvet gown dress for my senior collection and I eco-bundled a yellow velvet skirt with flower petals and turmeric! Turmeric gives a really awesome neon yellow when you steam it long enough, its awesome! My entire collection was dyed naturally using various things from eucalyptus to rust to flowers to brazil wood…there’s so many possibilities!

check ‘em out here :)
http://paigesofnothing.blogspot.com/2012/09/my-very-own-lookbook.html

diyearte by L & S -November 5, 2012, 8:54AM

wooooowwww great idea!!

DIY and more:
http://diyearte.blogspot.com

ABI -November 12, 2012, 11:05AM

A very cheap alternative!:)

Cayt -December 8, 2012, 11:42PM

I’m wondering, could you use the papery skins of garlic to dye colored clothes white?

seun -January 29, 2013, 9:44AM

please,hw can i extract dyes from brazilwood,bixa(annato) and madder root…pls its impotant…i need d procedure.

Jasmine -February 5, 2013, 3:47AM

i made a dye with the onion skins and a really nice red dye with rasberries strawberries and blueberries i left the materials in for two nights and they coloured really well i also tried tie die which also turned out pretty cool i will put some photos up soon!! thankyou for putting this up i’m using it as a science experiment for school as well :)

Melyssa -February 18, 2013, 9:37AM

I lovelove this idea! Definitely going to be trying it this weekend. And I love your friendship bracelet suggestion! Definitely doing that.
I posted this DIY in a roundup on my blog, The Nectar Collective. Thank you for the great idea! :)
http://thenectarcollective.com/2013/02/diy-roundup-vol-2/

tracey -March 13, 2013, 8:09AM

Iv used purple carrots and gotten a lovely lavender colour after washing im about to try sumac and tummeric there suposed to give bright /deep colour results

blah -March 17, 2013, 3:08PM

cool

Carlota -June 15, 2013, 5:32PM

Tengo una duda, lo que nosotros teñimos de una manera ecologicamente, y sin gastar dinero, ya sea lana o tela no se soltara el color en las siguientes lavadas?

tekstil bursa -August 16, 2013, 5:29PM

thank you perfect this site.

Doglover123 -September 26, 2013, 8:12PM

I will try this

Mrityunjay -December 13, 2013, 1:14AM

For the extraction of green-coloured chlorophyll dye from spinach, you should try putting those spinach leaves in ethyl alcohol (ethanol). And, you will definitely see amazing results. :) :)

eleanor -January 3, 2014, 1:59AM

For the green, try liquid chlorophyll! It’s VERY green and is super healthy to consume too. It will give a lighter shade of green or a more vibrant color, depending on how much water you use to dilute it … or not dilute it. Blueberries also create a really beautiful shade of purple. :) I’ve only tried this with play dough for my little ne, but I’m planning to try it on fabric soon. The only thing I’m not sure about is how to ensure that the dye doesn’t fade. Any ideas?

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