Wednesday, May 25, 2011

dabbling in natural dye

Some of you may remember this library book, which I did end up finding to be a highly enjoyable read. And I was even motivated to try my hand at a little natural plant dyeing. Turmeric seemed the easiest choice as it required no mordant (the chemical - often iron - that sets the colour in the fabric). However, a turmeric dyed item will slowly fade with each wash. I thought a string shopping bag would be a fun little first project.

First you need to soak your material to be dyed in water for an hour so the fibre will absorb the dye properly.

Mix your turmeric with some water. I just used what I had on hand, which was probably about a third of a cup of turmeric and then enough water to make a paste.

Unfortunately it got a little too late and dark to take any photos of the dyeing process. But all I did was add this turmeric mix to a saucepan of water, added the bag and simmered for about 20 minutes. I washed it in a little soap and rinsed well.

Not to waste the pot of dye, I also added a tablecloth. Not as successful this time as the colour came out a little patchy. It has been washed twice since, hence the colour fade.
It turns out that fabric dyeing of this kind was a very satisfying, fun and easy project. Next on the list? I'm quite curious to try ground coffee and onion skins. But I'm open to suggestions on other on-hand ingredients.


  1. That's a great shade of yellow that you get from tumeric. Who would have thought?

  2. Oh I do love that shade of yellow...just gorgeous. I have had success with tea and beetroot for dying fabric and have a friend who uses anything from nature including bark and leaves.

  3. I'm keen to try some natural dies too - thanks for sharing your experience, love the yellow! :)

  4. That bag looks so bright and cheery in the new yellow! What a fun project.

  5. OHH MY goshhhh!! I love this!! I really prefer natural over not..I am going to try this
    I am your newest follower

    Delighted Momma

  6. One more thing..I was going to do a project on my blog where I will be dying a leather piece of material..if it is okay with you..I wanted to include this natural alternative. I would of COURSE link back to your blog :)

  7. I have a book called Eco Colour by India Flint, an incredibly beautiful Australian book where she produces lots of lovely colours from things like eucalyptus leaves, berries and bottlebrushes. She says red maple leaves and their seeds make great bases and that salt (not iodised) can be used as a mordant. She also likes onion skins.

    Not that you need any advice (I just occasionally look at the book - never actually picked a leaf let alone dyed anything) as your bag looks great.

  8. Geez the turmeric worked a treat on that string bag. Such a bright yellow, very pretty!

    I guess different materials accept dyes better than others. The table cloth still looks good!


  9. That is such a gorgeous yellow. I am definitely going to have to try that. Re: coffee-dyeing; my first and only experience with that was on my wedding dress. My dress was hand-made from a gorgeous, heavy crepe-back satin in a pinkish-ivory color. I could only find the lace I wanted in a stark white, which just didn't look right. I considered tea-dyeing it, but it seemed the tea colour would be too yellow. So I brewed a cup of coffee, dunked the lace in, rinsed it...and, perfect! My sister dyes wool in American Kool-Aid, I have yet to try that. Fun! I love your blog, this is my first visit.

  10. Hello Tania! Lovely blog you have here. Talking about natural plant dyes..I haven't tried turmeric although am quite tempted to after seeing this post. I have been playing around with homespun wool and onion skins (great caramels to be had here) and oak bark twigs..lovely browns. The depths of colour can also be changed by adding mordant items such as rusty old iron scraps, copper items and using aluminium pots for dye vessels. Beetroot juice from homepickled beets yielded a fascinating orange shade. SO much fun to play around with!! :)

  11. Oh, ha, funny to see your post now, it looks like I have almost duplicated it! At least you had the patience to do the pre-soak. That yellow bag is just gorgeous and what a good idea to use something that won't need washing much. I'm going to be on the lookout for more things to try now. My mum used to dye wool with soursobs when I was a kid. I remember helping her collect them. Have you tried any other dyes since?


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