Coloring Fabric with Natural Plant Dyes
I am so excited to share this post with you! If you don’t already know, I come from a family of ministers. The only person who hasn’t accepted the calling yet is my son, and I suspect that he will probably do so in the pretty near future. My parents became ministers when I was already an adult, so I told them that all of the bad behavior in my youth was a down payment on becoming a P.K. (Preachers’ Kid) in the future lmbo! Anyhoo, I said all that to say that during one of my mom’s sermons, her Word for me was to “continue to see the art in broken things.”
That is really my approach not just to life, but also to sustainability. As I said in a recent Instagram post, what may seem useless or dead may indeed still have life left in it, but maybe in a different way. Still beautiful, just different.
Hence this post about using plants to dye your clothes! I really am about that sustainability life, and that includes buying secondhand or reusing things that I already have as much as possible. Case in point: My brother bought my son some cotton undershirts, but my child is the handsomest of giants and they did not fit him. But they fit me because I am freakishly small!
Sharing this post with you was really brought about by the fact that I had some lovely-smelling yellow chamomile weeds growing in my backyard that were the prettiest shade of yellow, so I thought, why not? I’m gonna try to use them as a dye for my recently acquired shirts and it worked better than I had even imagined, especially given that I only had about a handful of flowers to work with. And again, I am freakishly small so I do also have freakishly small hands! Lmbo!
That inspired me to also try dying with coffee which was even more successful since I had more ingredient to work with.
Read on below for the simple and sustainable DIY that you can use to upgrade your clothes and give them a new look! And don’t forget that you can use those leftover dye materials in your garden or as compost! (Tomatoes love coffee grinds FYI).
Mix one part vinegar to four parts water and soak your garment for one hour. Ring it out but leave it wet, this is the pre-treatment that preps your piece to take on the dye.
Place the plant material in a large non-reactive pot. I used stainless steel but glass also works.
Fill the pot with twice as much water as plant material plus a tiny bit more to allow for evaporation and bring it to a boil. Like I said earlier, I did not have many of the yellow chamomile flowers, so that just meant my dye was not as dark, resulting in a lighter end product which was totally fine. Release your expectations for a perfectly specific end result and just enjoy what comes out of it. For the coffee I just brewed about twelve cups worth of very strong coffee (a full pot), it was enough to nearly completely cover my shirt.
Turn the heat down and simmer your all-natural plant dye mixture for an hour, until a nice dark color is achieved. Try to make sure that you have enough liquid to completely cover the garment you’re going to dye. If you don’t have enough liquid to cover the garment, you can always add more water. Just keep in mind this will result in a lighter dye. Again, release your expectations and you will be far more likely to love and enjoy your end result!
Strain out the plant material and return the liquid to your pot.
Place your garment into the dye and slowly bring to a soft boil.
Turn the heat down and simmer for at least one hour, stirring occasionally, then turn it off.
If you’d like a darker, longer-lasting color, allow the garment to sit in the dye overnight (a full 24 hours).
Remove the garment from the dye (wring it out of course) and wash it in cold water. I used the “Rinse and Spin” setting on my washer, use whatever would be the equivalent on your model.
Dry completely (in the dryer) and enjoy your cool new upcycled garment!
I ironed the shirts to really set the dye but that is totally optional. I hate ironing so I surprised myself by doing this step! Hahahaha!
For reference, here is the shirt dyes with the yellow chamomile flowers against a shirt that was the color I began with-plain white. As you can see, quite a bit of color for such a small amount of flowers!
The dye could stain some pots and spoons (or your hands!), so use ones that you don’t mind that possibly happening to.
Your garment will be lighter when it dries and will slowly lose color each time you wash it. Wash separately in cold water to slow this process down. Remember that you can always re-dye it!
Don’t necessarily expect a perfectly uniform dying effect, sometimes you may get an almost tie-dyed kind of look, especially if your dye does not completely cover your garment-enjoy the beautiful and perfectly imperfect look!
Fresh ingredients will give you a much stronger dye than dried (dried in some cases may not work at all) but you can always give it a try and trash or (preferably) compost any dye materials that don’t work out.
Natural fabrics like cotton and linen generally take the dye better, but you can use any fabric. Try it with curtains, flour towels, handkerchiefs…the possibilities are endless!
Here’s a handy-dandy guide to some all natural plant dyes:
Brown: coffee, tea, dandelion roots, walnut hulls, acorns
Red: beets, pomegranate, hibiscus flowers
Yellow: yellow onion skins, marigolds, sunflower petals, St John’s Wort, dandelion flowers, paprika, turmeric, celery leaves, lilac twigs, yellow dock roots, yellow chamomile flowers
Orange: carrots, yellow onion skins
Green: grass, nettles, artichokes, spinach, peppermint leaves, hibiscus leaves (pretty much most leaves will do it!)
Pink: roses, berries, cherries
Blue: blueberries, indigo, red cabbage, elderberries
Really any colorful flower or plant material (non-poisonous or skin irritating) will give you a good dye…don’t be afraid to experiment!!!
If you’re looking to throw a cool and sustainable kids’ birthday party, look no further! Check out my Budget+Earth Friendly Kids’ Party post!
©2019 Cazoshay Marie. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cazoshay Marie with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
D.I.D. with Cazoshay and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on this blog is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program.