Dyeing With Black Beans

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I’ve always been so amazed by natural dyes. The fact that a beautiful flower or fruit has the ability to turn a white fabric into one of that same hue is a mesmerizing thing.

Julia has experimented with dyeing with flowers here, here, and here, and I decided to take a turn using black beans!  I did a bunch of research beforehand, but was still wary going into this. I had no idea how it would turn out, but I must say… I’m pretty pleased! Have a look at the steps I took. Maybe you’ll be inspired to try this out for yourself!

Dyeing with black beans 5

Materials:

Uncooked black beans
Water
Soda ash (optional – you’ll see why)
Soaking pot (I used a metal stove pot)
Nonreactive dye pots (I used glass mason jars)
Natural fabric or yarn (I used cotton lace)

What I found is that dyeing is all about experimenting. One type of beans may yield a totally different color than another. Same goes with the type of water (hard/soft, tap/bottled) and type of fabric. My advice is to play around with all different things and have fun with it!

Directions:

1. Pour some beans into your soaking pot and fill to the top with water. I used about 3-4 cups of beans in a medium pot, but soon realized (within a few hours) that this may have been too many beans for the amount of water. The beans soak up a lot of water, and I wanted to make sure I’d have enough dye for my fabric, so I split the beans into 2 pots, and filled both to the top with water.

Dyeing with black beans

2. Allow your beans to soak for 24 full hours, stirring whenever you have a moment (I only stirred once or twice in the 24 hours). When 24 hours is up, you’ll find that the water is a somewhat murky brownish, bluish, or purplish color.

Dyeing with black beans

3. Do not stir the pots at this point. Remove any bean particles that may be floating on top of the water using a strainer, then transfer the water into your dye pots using a cup or ladle. Be careful not to get any bean particles into your dye pots – they will turn the fabric a grayish color.

4. At this point in time, I got a little nervous. I expected my water to be a bluish color… but it was a brownish purple. I thought that this may have been due to the pH level of the water I used, so I added a little soda ash to one dye pot, and left the other untouched.

Dyeing with black beans

Soda ash is a water softener that is often used in dyeing as a way to achieve the desired color. Below are my two dye pots. The jar on the right is the one containing soda ash. To my surprise, it actually turned the water a greenish brown (although this is hard to see from the photo) instead of the blue that I was expecting. I crossed my fingers and went with it anyway!

Dyeing with black beans

5. I cut two pieces of the cotton lace fabric, submerged each one into one of my 2 dye pots, covered with plastic wrap, and let sit for another 24 hours. I would recommend 24 hours at the least, but you can leave it in for 48 hours for more saturation if you’d like.

Dyeing with black beans

Dyeing with black beans

6. After 24 hours of untouched dyeing, I removed the lace pieces from the jars and hung them to dry overnight. Here’s how they turned out!

Dyeing with black beans 11
The fabric in the untreated water turned a beautiful blue. The fabric in the soda-ash-treated water turned a cream color, which gave it an antique feel. I was interested to discover that the untreated dye gave me more of the results I was looking for, but I was actually pleased with how they both turned out!

Dyeing with black beans

I love how they look hanging on a wall, layered on top of one another, with some necklaces over them.

Dyeing with black beans

…I’ll probably find a million uses for them.

What do you guys think — would you try dyeing with black beans? If you’ve ever done it and have any advice for those who want to give it a try, please comment below!

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Comments

Juliette Laura -January 3, 2014, 8:12AM

Oh my goodness I am so going to do this! They are absolutely beautiful!

xo, Juliette Laura
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meg -January 3, 2014, 8:48AM

I had no idea you could use black beans to die fabric! This is amazing!

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Annejelina -January 3, 2014, 9:49AM

This is pretty rad, I would have never thought to dye with beans. It’s such a unique grayish blue color too! Awesome Brigette <3
xoxo Annejelina
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deb gillanders -January 3, 2014, 2:22PM

.. and then eat the beans ..

Georgie -January 3, 2014, 3:16PM

Ooh, I love this!!! Thanks for posting! I thrifted the most amazing crochet shift dress over the summer that was pretty much that exact same lavenderish hue. Not too long after, it accidentally wound up with a few bleach spots. The dress had two equally awesome things going for it- it was a crochet shift dress and it was this beautiful color. I will be buying a similar dress ASAP and trying to recreate the one I found!

Megan Babin -January 3, 2014, 4:03PM

I love this idea and I wouldn’t definitely try it! I was given some small lace and crocheted remnants that my great grandmother had created, so I will most likely try it out on this.

Megan Babin -January 3, 2014, 4:04PM

I just realized I put wouldn’t..stupid autocorrect..I meant would..haha

Jenny -January 3, 2014, 6:14PM

I’ve dyed with black beans before, and a few other natural dyes, but I’ve never done it without a mordant. (Mordant: a binder agent, often an acid, that makes your natural dye a little more colorfast) I usually use alum (or aluminum sulfide) and cream of tartar to soak my fabric before dying with beans, though I’m usually dying wool not cotton. How well did your color stay after washing?

Shelley -January 4, 2014, 12:28PM

Very cool! But I think I would rather eat the beans! haha!
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Susie -January 4, 2014, 7:16PM

They came out so pretty, I will definitely have to try !

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Michelle Collins -January 6, 2014, 4:21PM

I love this DIY!!! You have given me some ideas for bringing back certain pieces from my closet back to life.

Kim -January 9, 2014, 12:04AM

So neat!

I am also wondering how color fast the dye is. And where do you get the soda ash and alum?

I think you could probably cook the beans, too, after separating them from the water :)

Vanessa -January 15, 2014, 11:59PM

Wow, who knew such a beautiful color could be achieved via black beans? :)

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western -February 6, 2014, 2:26PM

Hi, I was wondering if you could use this method to tie-dye? Should i submerged my t shirts for no more than 24 hours or just an hour,then cure it in a plastic sack, as i would normally do for my tie-dying method. I might just have to just give it a try.

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