Making Natural Plant Dyes

Image from TwispWorks.
After recently learning how to identify different types of edible wild plants, I decided to find wild plants that could be used to make natural fabric dyes. One of the main benefits of creating natural dyes is that the process is completely safe and allows you the ability to create your own colors and dye your own fabrics. To begin the process, I took a walk through the woods by the farm and picked a variety of flowers and berries, planning to identify them and determine if they would be suitable for fabric dyes. Although certain plants that are harmful when eaten remain suitable for dyeing, others can cause skin irritations so it is important to have a basic knowledge of the plants you intend to use in the dye. Pioneer Thinking’s website has a great list of different plants, including which colors and shades they make when used for dyeing.

When using plant dyes, you first need to set the fabric that you will be dyeing with a salt fixative. I used ¼ cup of salt because I was only testing the dye on a small piece of fabric, but most instructions recommend ¾ cup of plain salt. Mix the salt with several cups of water and bring to a boil, then submerge your fabric and allow it to simmer for an hour. When the fabric is through, you should rinse it with cold water and ring out. For my dye, I used about 2 cups of red berries I found in the woods, along with a handful of petals from purple clovers and purple loosestrife. If any of the ingredients you are using as dye could be harmful if ingested or irritate skin, use an old pot that you don’t use for cooking anymore when boiling the plants. For the berry and petal mixture, I boiled them for about an hour and then let the berries soak in the water for another half hour before straining them and soaking the cloth in the mixture. The berries and petals created a light pink tint on the cloth I used, although I had hoped it would be darker.