How to Make Natural Dyes From Flowers & Plants

Written by joanne thomas
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You can use many types of flowers and plants found in your garden to make dyes for fabric and yarn. Natural dyes are easy to make and you don't need any special equipment. A wide palette of dye colours can be created using flowers and plants, and these can be combined and blended to make customised shades. Once you have made a dye solution, dye fabric by soaking it overnight. Using techniques like tie-dye, batik and dip-dye allows you to use your natural dye for a whole range of projects.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Plant and flower material: full-bloom flowers, roots, nuts, leaves, vegetables, ripe berries, bark and fruits
  • Sharp knife or food processor
  • Large old pan
  • Salt or vinegar
  • Bucket
  • Wooden spoon
  • Rubber gloves
  • Sieve or colander

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Gather plant and flower materials and put them into separate piles unless you want to blend all the colours together.

  2. 2

    For each dye solution, chop all the materials into small pieces using a sharp knife or food processor. Place the chopped plants and flowers into an old pan.

  3. 3

    Cover the plant material with double its volume in cold water. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon and bring it to a boil on the hob.

  4. 4

    Turn the heat down so the liquid simmers. Allow the mixture to simmer for about one hour, then turn off the heat and allow it to cool.

  5. 5

    Strain the liquid from the solid material into an old bucket or basin through a sieve or colander. Press the solid materials with the back of your wooden spoon to get all of the dye solution out.

  6. 6

    Use your solution to dye light-coloured cotton, silk fabric or natural yarn. For berry dyes, simmer the fabric/yarn first in a solution of 1/2 cup of salt to 8 cups of cold water for about an hour. For plant dyes, simmer the fabric/yarn for an hour in 4 parts cold water to 1 part white vinegar. Soak the fabric in the dye solution in the bucket overnight, then rinse.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear rubber gloves and cover your surface with plastic or newspaper to prevent stains.
  • Launder dyed fabrics in cold water only.

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