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!


  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. ….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

  5. 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? :(

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

  7. 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 :)

  8. 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. 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!

  10. 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!

  11. Hi!!

    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!

  12. の各データの表示、非表示を簡単に行うことができます。これにより、地球地図とそれ以外のデータの重ね合わせなど、

  13. 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?

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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?

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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?

  21. 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?..

  22. 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!

  23. 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

  24. 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.

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

  26. 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?

  27. 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?

  28. 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?

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

  30. 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.

  31. I have the notion of using squid ink (my husband bring them home from his lobster pots) I spin wool and alpaca. Anyone used this and knows what happens with what mordants? help would be greatly appreciated!!

  32. I tried the red cabbage dye, and now I want to wash those clothes before wearing them, but I did a little test with washing powder (bio and non-bio) and it turned clothes blueish green. Does anyone know what clothes can be washed with after dyeing them with natural dyes?

  33. “Andrea says:
    December 16, 2017 At 5:06 Am
    I tried the red cabbage dye, and now I want to wash those clothes before wearing them, but I did a little test with washing powder (bio and non-bio) and it turned clothes blueish green. Does anyone know what clothes can be washed with after dyeing them with natural dyes?”

    Red cabbage is sensitive to pH. It will turn blue/green with alkaline washing powder. You’d need to find a pH balanced detergent & maybe try some vinegar in the rinse water to retain the pink colour.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.