Dyeing With Black Beans

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


Uncooked black beans
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!


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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7 years ago

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

xo, Juliette Laura

7 years ago

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


7 years ago

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

deb gillanders
7 years ago

.. and then eat the beans ..

7 years ago

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!

7 years ago

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.

7 years ago

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

7 years ago

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?

7 years ago

Very cool! But I think I would rather eat the beans! haha!

7 years ago

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


7 years ago

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

7 years ago

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 :)

7 years ago

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


7 years ago

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.

6 years ago

so no heat is used at all ?

6 years ago

Beautiful! can not wait to try it xx

5 years ago

Beautiful! My black beans have been soaking (with very hot water, just as I do when I cook them) since yesterday and I am about to test a piece of a beautiful (and very economic) white fabric that I bought yesterday for that purpose. My only other experience was to dye with avocado pits and skins; I did not treat my fabric first and I have not had time to wash it yet and test if the color stays but what happened is that at first the brownish water turned my white fabric into a light peach tone, I just left it in a plastic container for a whole week (uncovered) worried that it would grow bacteria and mold, but it didn’t. I stirred up the fabric 2x a day because I noticed that the air exposed part was getting darker. It turned out a nice shade of pink salmon color, much darker than at the beginning, really lovely. Used 5 small pits and the skin of 2 avocados. My only regret is that at the end I was so sick and tired of stirring the fabric that I didn’t, and the wrinkles on top turned a strong rusty color, in wave like patterns, very interesting if you want texture in your design. O well, I did like 3 yards of it, so none will be wasted. What I want to do with the beans is a white dress that I will dip from the bottom only to have a faded tint going upwards. We’ll see. Thanks for your help!

5 years ago

This’s truly an experimental invention. I see it an art and apart from it, it’s a big achievement as well in terms of stuff dying like this and a pretty result!

5 years ago

Absolutely wonderful! I do recommend that anyone in the tropics (ahem, me) realizes that unsupervised beans and bean water will start to yeast, so refrigerating is a must!

3 years ago

Loved reading about dyeing with blackbeans. I am wanting to dye a quilt that has bleach marks, has anyone successfully dyed a cotton quilt before?

3 years ago

This is fascinating using black beans. Does anyone know how colour fast it is and do you really need a mordant soaked fabric?

Rosamund Clancy
3 years ago

Your results are consistent with my results that showed soaking my black turtle beans in seawater produced blue, but my soft tap water does not. My first attempt at blue produced brown and after much experimenting and achieving a loving purple along the way, I did get blue!

Di Scott
3 years ago

Hi all. So this is all done cold? Your fibre/yarn just goes into the strained dye water. You don’t pre mordant? After appropriate time the fibre is taken out, left to dry? Is it then washed and dried again? Thank you for any suggestions you may have. Thanks, Di Scott.

2 years ago

Hi! I was wondering if you washed the fabrics and what happened with the colour afterwards, did it fade away?

2 years ago

Curious how the dye holds up after washing? I’m interested in using my hand dyes for quilting but don’t want to colors to fade.