Natural dyeing is an art form and the right guidance along the way can make you an artist.
Learning natural dyeing techniques in a way that feels easy and simple can help you feel in full control of the colours in your wardrobe and in your home.
You might love a certain pillow case or quilt, but feel bored with the colour for the past few years and are ready to switch things up.
Or perhaps you have a party coming up and have your heart set on wearing your favourite dress in your wardrobe in a whole new colour.
….enter natural dyeing.
Having the option to change the colour of your fabrics means you can always keep things fresh and consistently make new creations – right in the comfort of your very own home!
Let’s explore everything there is to know about natural dyeing techniques as a beginner and some fantastic tips for you to keep in your backpocket during the process.
Before getting started, it’s good to have a basic understanding of what a natural dyeing process entails.
Put simply, natural dyeing is the process of using natural resources to dye fabrics and textiles.
You might choose to use plants, fruit and vegetable scraps, insects or minerals – there are many different options to choose from.
The one thing that sets natural dyeing apart from synthetic dyeing is that it brings you much closer to Nature and you won’t be exposed to harmful chemicals during the process or when you wear your clothes.
You will need a few hours to complete most natural dyeing jobs, however some of this time will be spent waiting, so the great news is that you can dye whilst getting on with other things at home.
Top tips & tricks for natural dyeing
1- Clean your fabric thoroughly.
Make sure your fabric is as clean as possible before starting.The technical word we use for this process is “scouring”, and it means removing residual oils and waxes that are naturally present in most natural fibres. Remember – the success of your final dyed product will depend on how clean your fabric is to begin with, so make sure it’s pristine.
2- Do your research on mordanting
Once again, this is a very important part of any natural dyeing process.
Mordanting is the process of pre-treating your fabric so that the colour can properly bond and stay in the fibres. It is important to educate yourself on which mordant is best for your process accurately before getting started.
3- Choose a natural fibre for your natural dyeing process.
Natural fibres are our only option for the natural dyeing process, since the composition of synthetic fibres doesn’t allow them to soak up the colour compounds from natural dyes..
Some good options to use (especially as a beginner) are cotton, wool, silk or linen.
Let’s explore the most common natural dyeing techniques
1- Natural dyeing with vegetable & fruit scraps
Dyeing with food scraps is one of the most common ways to dye clothes naturally, and the best part is that there are so many different vegetables and fruits to choose from to make brilliant colours. Some of our favourites just to name a few are:
- Red and yellow onion skins for a golden yellow
- Avocado skins and stones for a dusty, peachy pink
- Walnut husks make rich, chocolatey browns
Check out this article on how to make natural yellow fabric dye with onion skins.
Try using one of the food scraps I have mentioned above if you are just starting out, as dyeing with food can be a good way to get your bearings and practice as a beginner!
2- Natural dyeing with flowers
I love this natural dyeing process as you can use the flowers right in your front yard, and even better – plants come into bloom in different moments of the season, giving you even more colour choice!
You can also create your own dye garden and plant dedicated seeds if you have specific flowers you would like to dye with (here’s a handy list of my recommended dye plants!). Some of my favourite flowers, just to name a few are:
- Marigolds (of the tagetes genus, not calendula!), for bright, golden yellow shades
- Purple pincushion flowers (the really dark purple ones!) are especially great for bundle dyeing (more on that below!) and they give gorgeous dark teal tones
- Sulphur cosmos for beautiful oranges and yellow
Check out this article on how to dye silk fabric with plant.
3- Solar dyeing
One of the most environmentally friendly dyeing processes yet, solar dyeing uses the natural heat from the sun to dye fabrics and yarns like cotton, wool or silk.
You will need to have a good supply of sunshine over a period of time, as this dye process generally takes a few weeks to set in. This is very much a ‘set and leave’ dye process, giving you more time to focus on other things whilst waiting for your final product to be revealed.
4- Bundle dyeing
Bundle dyeing is a whole lot of fun and allows you to work with multiple different colours and materials in one go!
This is the process of using the natural prints from leaves, herbs, flowers and vegetables and blending these together in a bundled dyeing process to create different colours, shapes and patterns on your chosen fabric.
This is a fabulous dyeing process to enjoy with children. It’s also useful when you don’t have a lot of dyestuff available, as the colours will be bright, even when using very little materials.
You’ve done your research on natural dyeing – now it’s time to get prepared.
The items that you will need for a natural dyeing process will differ depending on which path you choose to go down, but the below items are generally a good starting point for most natural dye processes:
- Fabric you are dyeing
- Your chosen dyestuff
- Dedicated tongs, wooden spoon or stick
- Source of heat
- A dedicated strainer
- Kitchen scales
- Pots and pans (ensure to use items you don’t plan on using again)
- Spare buckets, jars or containers
- Towel or rag – you’ll need it!
Natural dyeing for beginners made easy
Natural dyeing is a true gift from the Earth and is an opportunity for us to learn about how different natural fibres work with Mother Nature.
Not only is it an activity that can bring families and friends together, but it’s also a great way to relax and serves as a therapeutic process for many.
Although DIY projects are fulfilling, they can also carry possible frustrations and questions without the right guidance at the beginning (DIY nightmare? No thank you!)
I’m here to guide you through the beginning process of your natural dyeing journey, to give you all the knowledge you need to confidently create your own personal projects.
The Living Colour with the Five Elements online natural dyeing workshop gives you everything you need to dive deep into making fun dye creations and mastering your own sustainable wardrobe.
I hope you have enjoyed this and until next time!