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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10 years ago

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!

10 years ago

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!

10 years ago

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

10 years ago

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

10 years ago

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!

10 years ago

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

10 years ago

….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

10 years ago

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? :(

Mary-Margaret Swofford
2 months ago
Reply to  Judi

Try the Rit ColorStay fixative. I have used successfully it when dyeing with coffee and tea. Good luck!

10 years ago

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

9 years ago

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 :)

9 years ago

love free people

9 years ago

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!

9 years ago

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!

9 years ago

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!

8 years ago


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!

1 year ago
Reply to  priscilla

I have the same question

1 year ago
Reply to  Marina

Hi Marina! We’re sorry we missed Priscilla’s question…but to answer BOTH of you is our in-house dyer aficionado:
Inks may preserve fairly well if a whole clove is added to the jar (this is from the book “Botanical Inks”). They are widely used as antimicrobials. I’ve never tried this with dye baths, but it should help with them, too.
As for freezing, if you have the room it should be fine. Dyes will probably start to mold or glob up after a week or two. This can usually be strained and discarded and the bath still be used.

8 years ago

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

8 years ago

Brilliant idea! Love your blog!

8 years ago


8 years ago

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?

8 years ago

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.

8 years ago

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

8 years ago

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.

8 years ago

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?

8 years ago

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.

8 years ago

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.