How to Make Natural Dye for Clothing

Tie dyed shirt made from natural plant dyes.
Tie dyed shirt made from natural plant dyes. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Many plants and vegetables are used to make natural dye for fabrics. Dying old clothes is a convenient way to make them look new again.Creating your own natural dyes is simple and economical since most of the supplies can be found in your kitchen and garden. Berries, vegetables and flowers make beautiful colors for fabric dyes.You will need to try out a few colors to know how much plant material is needed for certain shades of color. See the color chart for plants and vegetables needed for certain colors below.

Things You'll Need

  • Plants or vegetables
  • Large pot
  • Salt (for berries)
  • Vinegar (for plants)

Choose a natural fabric such as cotton because it absorbs well. This is a good way to recycle old t-shirts and make them like new. Launder the fabric first and remove any stains prior to dyeing.

Choose what colors you will use for your dyeing project. Blueberries, beets, raspberries,dandelions, onion skins, red clover, pomegranates, turmeric, mustard, black walnuts and coffee are a few fruits and vegetables used to make natural dyes. The roots and leaves of certain plants also make good dye colors.

Put a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Chop or cut up the vegetables or plant material you will use and add to the boiling water. Turn down the heat and simmer until the desired shade of color is reached.

Add a fixative to help set the color. Salt and vinegar are used as a color fixative to set the color. This is similar to the process of adding vinegar to food coloring when dyeing Easter eggs. Use a 1/2 cup of salt for berry and fruit dyes and a 1 to 4 ratio of vinegar for plant dyes. This means one part vinegar to four parts water.

Place fabric in the dye and make sure it is totally covered by the color. Leave the fabric to sit in the dye overnight or until the right shade of color. Rinse the fabric in cold water to remove excess dye and fixative. The color will be lighter when dry.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use a wooden spoon to stir the color and move the fabric around in the pot. Wear gloves when handling plant dyes to avoid staining your skin.

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