Making Natural Dyes

It’s fun and simple to make natural dyes at home and much kinder to the environment than chemical dyes. Humans have been colouring cloth naturally for over 4000 years.

You will need:

2 x pans with lids

Material made of natural fibres such as cotton, wool, linen or silk. For best results use white material. Washed but can be wet.

Select Fruit, veg or spices for dying.

  • Orange: carrots onion skins
  • Yellow: Turmeric
  • Brown: dandelion roots, oak bark, tea, acorns
  • Pink: berries, avocado skins
  • Red; beetroots, pomegranate
  • Blue: red cabbage, elderberries, dogwood bark


Mordant or fixer. Salt for fruit dyes and white vinegar for veg dyes.

Pebbles, corks.

Elastic bands, clips.


How to:

  • Making the dye Firstly decide on the colour you want. There are some ideas above or try experimenting with things you have in the kitchen.


Chop up the fruit/ veg and place in a pan. If using a spice like ground turmeric use a table spoon or so. Cover with water and simmer for an hour with the lid on. Be sure it isn’t boiling dry and top up with water when needed. Consider how much material you will be dying. There will need to be enough dye to cover the cloth.


  • Making the mordant or fixer Into a second pan measure 1 cup of salt (for fruit dyes) or 1 cup white vinegar for veg dyes and 4 cups of water. Put the cloth into the pan making sure it is completely submerged. Cover and simmer for one hour making sure it doesn’t boil dry.

You can also buy a product called Alum, online, which will work for any natural dying. (N.B Alum is an approved food substance but in large doses is toxic.)


  • After an hour take the dye and mordant off the heat. Strain the dye through a sieve (or muslin for ground spices) to remove the fruit or veg. Take the cloth out of the mordant being careful not to burn yourself and let it cool off.


  • Making the tie dye design. Tie pebbles and corks into the cloth using elastic bands or clips to hold folds in the material. Make sure the bands are tied very tightly to prevent the dye getting to the cloth under them.
  • Dying the cloth. When ready, submerge the material into the dye and leave for an hour or 2 or overnight.
  • Remove the cloth from the dye, being careful not to drip it everywhere, its best to do it over the sink and wear an apron.


  • Rinse with cold water. Dry the cloth and once dry remove the elastic bands and clips to reveal the pattern.


Try experimenting with different natural dyes, materials and patterns by tying different objects into the cloth.

Use the cloth to make a flag, stuff with lavender and sew together to make a small pillow, make small designs to stick on to cards and send to friends or sew into a face mask. Or you could try dying a t-shirt or other piece of clothing.

Categories: Activity

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