Published on April 26th, 2014 | by Becky Striepe1
Natural Dyes for Fabric: Create a Natural Rainbow of Color!
Do you want to try natural dyes for fabric but aren’t sure how to get the colors that you want? Here’s a list of natural dyes by color for easy reference.
You know that conventional fabric dyes are bad news, but they’re just so easy, right? Pick up a bottle, and you’re instantly dyeing your fabric whatever color your heart desires! My hope with the list below is to provide you with some options to replace chemical dyes with plant-based and other natural dyes, no matter what color you’re going for.
Fabric Dyes: The Basics
In general you can follow similar steps when you’re making your natural dyes with natural materials. What will change is the soaking time. Here are the basic steps:
1. Boil your fabric in enough water/salt mixture to cover the fabric completely. You want your mixture to be 1 cup of water to 1 tablespoon of salt, so just add water and salt until you have enough to cover. Boil for one hour, then wring out the fabric and discard that water. Keep an eye on the pot, adding water and salt if needed. You don’t want to let the pot go dry!
2. Put the fabric back into your pot and cut up enough plant matter to fill the pot about halfway (with the fabric already in there), then top off the pot with water. For dried herbs you don’t need as much – about 1-2 tablespoons dried herbs per cup of water should do the trick. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Remove the pot from the heat, and let the fabric soak in the hot water until it reaches a brighter shade than you’re going for.
4. Rinse the fabric a little bit in the sink, then give it a bath in white vinegar. Rinse one more time, then hang dry.
Using fruit juice to dye your fabric? Check out this article from our sister site Feelgood Style to get the deets!
Natural Dyes by Color
The list of natural dyes below includes links to tutorials wherever possible. Where I couldn’t find specific tutes, you can follow the instructions above to create your dyes. There are links to additional sources at the bottom, if you’d like to read more about natural dyes for fabric. I haven’t tested every single option below, so I scoured the internet for solid sources to flesh out this list.
The list is in rainbow order, with brown and gray at the very end. Happy fabric dyeing!
- Red Plums – If you want to make dye from plums, make sure you choose the ones with the dark, red flesh. Yellow-fleshed plums won’t do the trick.
- Hibiscus or Berries – This dip-dyed table runner tutorial includes instructions on using berries and hibiscus tea to make some richly colored fabric dyes.
- Red Onion Skins – Depending on the fabric you choose, red onion skins will yield anywhere from a rosy pink to a rich brown. Plant-based fibers + red onion skins give you shades of pink.
- Turmeric – You’ve seen how this spice dyes your fingers when you’re cooking. Put that staining power to good use!
- Yellow Onion Skins – The skin from yellow onions creates some shockingly deep golden shades. Beautiful!
- Celery Leaves
Note: A lot of folks (myself included!) have suggested red cabbage for getting a blueish purple, but I can tell you from experience that red cabbage dye washes out a lot. I’m hesitant to suggest it here. If you’ve had better luck with red cabbage dye, let me know! I’d love your tips, because it does look beautiful when it first comes out of the dye bath.
- Daylillies – This is a reddish purple.
- Coffee – Coffee gives a nice, earthy brown similar to the black tea dye.
- Black Tea – Tea-dyed fabric has a lovely aged look.
- Red Onion Skins – Depending on the fabric you choose, red onion skins will yield anywhere from a rosy pink to a rich brown. Animal-based fibers + red onion skins give you a range of browns
- Iris Root
- Oak or Rusty Nails – Getting grays naturally can be a little bit tricky, but eHow has a few good suggestions!
- Black Walnuts – This process uses a mix of natural materials to create a deep, rich gray.