Dying Fabric with Plants

Natural dyes can be found right in your own back yard! Roots, nuts and flowers are just a few common natural ways to get many dye colors. Yellow, orange, blue, red, green, brown and grey are available. 

Blossoms should be in full bloom, berries ripe and nuts mature. Remember, never gather more than 2/3 of a stand of anything in the wild when gathering plant stuff for dyeing.

To make the dye solution
Chop plant material into small pieces and place in a pot. Double the amount of water to plant material. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour. Strain. Now you can add your fabric to be dyed. For a stronger shade, allow material to soak in the dye overnight.

Getting the fabric ready for the dye bath
You will have to soak the fabric in a color fixative before the dye process. This will make the color set in the fabric.

Color Fixatives (Mordant)
Salt Fixative (for berry dyes) 1/2 cup salt to 8 cups cold water

  • Plant Fixatives (for plant dyes) 4 parts cold water to 1 part vinegar
  • Other Mordant: Cream of tartar, iron, tin, alum or chrome

Dying Process
Add fabric to the fixative (above) and simmer for an hour.

  1. Rinse the material and squeeze out excess.
  2. Then rinse in cool water until water runs clear.

Dye Bath
Place wet fabric in dye bath.

  1. Simmer together until desired color is obtained. The color of the fabric will be lighter when its dry.
    Note: All dyed fabric should be laundered in cold water and separately for other clothing.

Muslin, silk, cotton and wool work best for natural dyes and the lighter the fabric in color, the better. White or pastel fabrics work the best to dye..

NOTE: It’s best to use an old large pot as your dye vessel. Wear rubber gloves to handle the fabric that has been dyed, the dye can stain your hands. It’s also important to note, some plant dyes may be toxic, check with the Poison Control Center if unsure.