While you can buy commercial dyes in small quantities to dye your yarn or some fabrics, it can be great fun to make your own dyes from materials that are found around your house or your garden. Natural dyes are better, non-toxic and non-allergenic. Below are tips on how to make natural dyes.
- You can use berries, nuts, flowers and roots of plants to make natural dyes. You can get vivid colors such as red, yellow, green, blue, brown, gray and orange from plants and berries. There are some things you have to remember when using plants, nuts and berries to get make natural dyes. You should gather flowers that are in full bloom. Pick berries when these are fully ripe and use only mature nuts. Use old and mature roots to get the right color.
- For shades of orange you can use the leaves of sassafras, bloodroot, lichen, carrot roots and lilac twigs. For browns you can use oak bark, dandelion roots, walnut hulls, tea bags, coffee grinds, inner bark of white birch, juniper berries and the leaves of hollyhock. You can use strawberries, red raspberries, cherries, roses and lavenders with lemon juice and mint to get lovely shades of pink. Fruits of the sumac, beets, the bark of crab apple tree, rosehips and hibiscus flowers will give you different shades of red. Blue and purple can be produced from mulberries, elderberries, grapes, blueberries, blackberries and hyacinth flowers. These are just some of the flowers, nuts, roots and barks that you can use to make natural dyes.
- Chop the raw ingredients into small pieces and place in a big pot. Add twice the amount of water and bring it to a boil. Once the liquid has reached boiling point, reduce the heat and let the liquid simmer for sixty minutes. Pour the liquid over a fine sieve to remove the plant parts. Soak the fabrics or yarns that are to be dyed into the solution. Soaking the materials overnight will intensify the color.
- Fabrics should be treated first with fixative so that these can absorb the natural dyes better. You can boil the fabrics and yarn in one half-cup of salt for every eight cups of water when you are going to use dyes derived from berries. If you are using plant dyes, boil the fabrics in a solution of one cup vinegar for every four cups of water. Simmer the fabrics in the fixative solution for one hour. Rinse the material until the water runs clear and wring out the excess before placing the wet fabric in the dye bath. Simmer the liquid until the fabric has reached the color intensity that you like. Remember that the color of the dye will lighten when the fabric is dry.
Use a large old pot that you no longer use for cooking to cook your
dyes. Wear gloves as the dye will stain your hands. Natural dyes may
bleed so it is best to wash the fabrics separately, using cold water.
Remember to check the characteristics of the raw materials that you are
going to use as your source of natural dyes. You may be allergic to some
of these raw materials.