How To Make Natural Dyes

Perfect for Use on Cloth and Paper

Natural dyes are a great thing to make for dyeing your own homemade paper, eggs, and cloth. It doesn't take a lot of work and can produce wonderful results. A few good dye options are blackberries for a deep pink to purple, black willow bark for a red to reddish brown, henna leaves for a gold color, indigo leaves for a blue, and maple bark for a tan color. There are many other options, but these are some common ones that can make great colors with little work.

Step 1

Gather your materials. You will need to gather up your plant materials while they are at the peak of color. The flowers, berries, roots, and bark should be moist and not yet starting to decay. You should gather your plant materials mid-morning so that the dew has had a chance to dry, but it hasn't gotten hot yet.

Step 2

Cut your materials up. Cut your materials into 1" pieces. This can be done with a knife, scissors, or pruners depending on the material.

Step 3

Use a mortar and pestle (or bowl and spoon) to grind and smash materials. Carefully grind up or smash materials as best as possible. It is best to get as much juice out as possible.

This may leave your mortar and pestle (or bowl and spoon) dyed.

Step 4

Place the materials into a pot and add water. You will want to add one cup of water for every cup of plant material.

This will leave your pot dyed. You should only use this pot for dye afterwards to avoid dyeing your food. 

Step 5

Simmer for one to four hours. For soft plant materials one hour is enough to extract the natural color from the plant material. However, bark and roots will do well to simmer a little longer. The longer you simmer the darker the color will get. Make sure you add water as needed though.

Step 6

Set aside to cool and then sift out plant materials. Using a strainer carefully sift out plant materials after the dye has cooled. You can now use it to dye paper or cloth. Using a fixative will get you better results for clothes and paper. Salt, vinegar, and alum are some great options for cloth. Salt and baking soda make good fixatives for paper. 

Making your own natural dyes can be very rewarding and make for a great project for families. You can then use the dye for other projects. You need to use or discard of refrigerated dye within a week. The dye can be frozen for three months and simply thawed and heated for use. Either use dishes you don't mind to be dyed or ziploc freezer bags. Happy dye making!


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