Get Creative with Plant Dyeing
Plant dyeing is an all-natural method of dyeing fabrics using pigments found in plants. All you need are some kitchen staples and fresh produce to create amazing colours that will brighten up your wardrobe! Give plant dying a go with your little ones, or as a simple way to inject creativity into your next Zoom session with friends.
What fabrics can I dye?
Natural dyes will take to any white or light coloured natural fibres such as cotton, silk, wool and hemp. Whether it’s a towel, t-shirt, wool to knit with or cushion cover, the sky is the limit for what you can dye! White items will show up colour best.
What can I use to make plant dye?
There are countless options for plants that you can use to create natural dyes, from fruit and veggies to flowers, roots and nuts. Below are some popular examples you're more likely to have at home but make sure to google whatever you've got on hand and see if it can be used to create plant dye.
- Onion skins will produce an earthy yellow-orange colour.
- Red Basil will produce a rich purplish-red colour.
- Turmeric root will produce a bright sunshine yellow colour.
- Beets will produce a deep red colour.
- Coffee grounds will produce a brown colour.
- Carrots will produce a light yellow colour.
- Avocado skins and seeds will produce a pastel pink colour.
- Red Cabbage will produce a bluish-purple.
To get set up, you’ll need your fabric, your dye material of choice, gloves, a bucket, your mordant, a large stainless steel pot and something to stir your dye with. Once you know where you want to work, lay down some newspaper or plastic sheeting to protect the floor. If it’s sunny, head outside to minimise the mess.
Preparing your fabric
Before you dye your fabric, you will need to wash it and then wring it out well. Next, you need to make a mordant, which is a substance that will ensure your dye fixes to your fabric. The mordant you use will depend on the fibre of your fabric. Botanical Colours have a fantastic guide on what mordant to use for your fabric type, and how to prep your fabric with the mordant.
Let’s get dyeing!
- While you're prepping you fabric with your mordant, place your plant material into your pot, and add plenty of water, roughly twice as much as your plant material.
- Simmer this mixture for a minimum of one hour, or until your water has taken on a vibrant, deep colour.
- With gloves on, strain your dyeing liquid into a large bucket and return the liquid to your pot.
- Add your fabric, stirring it around to ensure it is soaking up the dye thoroughly and evenly.
- Bring the liquid up to a boil, and then simmer once again for a minimum of one hour, making sure to stir occasionally.
- Check the colour of your fabric. The colour will be lighter when dry, so ensure it looks deep and rich in the pot - you can leave it sitting overnight after simmering for more intense colour.
- Once you’re happy with the colour, rinse the fabric in cold water to set the dye, and then hand wash in cold water with some salt to cement the colour further.
- Hang your items up to dry, and get ready to enjoy your beautiful, plant-dyed items! It’s worth noting that after wearing or once they’re dirty, you should wash your naturally-dyed fabrics separately before washing them with other items in case of colour-leaching.