How to Dye With Elderberries

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Things You'll Need

  • Vinegar

  • Pot

  • Large bowl or bucket

The elderberry plant bears edible dark purple berries thought to have many healing properties. When combined with vinegar, the berries make a non-toxic, fade-proof, colorfast dye for clothing or yarn. Depending on how many berries you use, elderberry dye can transform white fabric to a light pink, lavender or deep purple shade. If using the berries for jam, pie or other recipes, you can reserve the leaves to make a yellow or green dye, or the bark for a gray dye.


Step 1

Boil vinegar in a large pot and add elderberries. Add more or fewer berries depending on how dark you want the dye. Use either white or apple cider vinegar – the latter choice will obviously tint the dye a reddish-brown shade.

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Step 2

Crush the berries to release more juice for a darker dye, or leave them intact for a lighter shade. Wait for the berry and vinegar mix to come to a boil and remove from heat.

Step 3

Immediately transfer the berry solution to a large bowl or bucket. Submerge the clothing or yarn you'd like to dye so it is completely covered. Allow it to sit overnight.

Step 4

Hang the dyed fabric on a clothesline or place it on a drying rack and allow it to dry completely before wearing or using.


Use the same recipe and methods to make dye from elderberry leaves or bark.


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