Natural Tie Dying DIY

Making Natural dye for Tie Dying

Since the ancient times we’ve been making natural pigments to dye and color our textiles. Throughout history, people have dyed their textiles using common, locally available materials, but scarce dyestuffs that produced brilliant and permanent colors such as the natural invertebrate dyes, Tyrian purple and crimson kermes, became highly prized luxury items in the ancient and medieval world. Plant-based dyes such as woad (Isatis tinctoria), indigo, saffron, and madder were raised commercially and were important trade goods in the economies of Asia and Europe. Across Asia and Africa, patterned fabrics were produced using resist dyeing techniques to control the absorption of color in piece-dyed cloth. Dyes such as cochineal and logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum) were brought to Europe by the Spanish treasure fleets, and the dyestuffs of Europe were carried by colonists to America. (i)


In this project, we're going to make natural dyes using local produce (and bulk items) from the co-op. We'll make four dyes using turmeric, blackberries, blueberries and cherries. Each berry dye creates different shades of blue and purple and when mixed with the yellow-golden color of turmeric make for an exciting effect.


To make natural tie dye do the following:



Gathering Plant Material


Blossoms should be in full bloom, berries ripe and nuts mature. Remember never gather more than 2/3 of a stand of anything in the wild when gathering plant stuff for dyeing.


To Make the Dye Solution


Chop the plant material into small pieces and place in a pot. Double the amount of water to plant material. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour. Strain. In this particular project, we poured the dye into bottles.

Repeat 4 times. 


Getting the Fabric Ready for the Dye Bath


You will have to soak the fabric in a color fixative before the dye process. This will make the color set in the fabric.


Did you know that a great source for natural dyes can be found right in your own back yard! Roots, nuts and flowers are just a few common natural ways to get many colors. Yellow, orange, blue, red, green, brown and grey are available. Go ahead, experiment!


Color Fixatives (Mordant)


Salt Fixative (for berry dyes) 1/2 cup salt to 8 cups cold water

Plant Fixatives (for plant dyes) 4 parts cold water to 1 part vinegar

Other Mordant: Cream of tartar, iron, tin, alum or chrome

Add fabric to the fixative and simmer for an hour.

Rinse the material and squeeze out excess.

Rinse in cool water until water runs clear.

Muslin, silk, cotton and wool work best for natural dyes and the lighter the fabric in color, the better. White or pastel colors work the best.

NOTE: It's best to use an old large pot as your dye vessel. Wear rubber gloves to handle the fabric that has been dyed, the dye can stain your hands. It's also important to note, some plant dyes may be toxic, check with the Poison Control Center if unsure. (ii)

See video above for reference.





i. Natural Dye:

ii. Natural Dye Recipe and Plant reference guide:


End Result

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