DIY Natural Dyes

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!


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 :)


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


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!


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:



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



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


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 :)


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!



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


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

Check out 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.

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


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!


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

Evelyn Laing

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.


no more dyes – its boring


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!


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

oh wow thats brilliant! great idea :)

sarah v

Try purple cabbage!

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


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! :)


turmeric powder makes a really pretty golden yellow :)


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


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

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


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

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

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


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!

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.

Try black beans too – yields really nice soft blues.

stella rose

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