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Art of Dyeing


The art of dyeing fabric and yarn using natural growing materials such as dried herbs, flowers, wild fruits such as blueberries, mulberries, blackberries and dirt  is an age-old practice. The technique is simple to replicate in your own home with successful results.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Dyeing:

Step 1. Prepare the Fabric to accept the dye: 
Go to your local grocery store and purchase Alum in the spice section. Alum is used to prepare the fabric to accept the dye and make the colors more striking and long-lasting. Place about 1 tablespoon of Alum in 1 gallon of water and add the material that you want to dye. Bring the water/material to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. Rinse the material in warm water and it’s ready to accept the dye.
Step 2. Collect natural materials to make your dye: 

To create a dye bath for two balls of wool yarn or three adult T-shirts, you will need maximum of about 1-3 gallons of raw material depending on how distinct the color of material is. The type of raw material that you select is endless, although for a beginner, we suggest that you start with a strong color such as wild mulberries or blueberries. If these aren’t available, look in the kitchen refrigerator for carrots. The tops and skins of carrots make an excellent dye.
Step 3. Simmer and Strain:
After you have collected the plant or fruit that you want to use as a dye, clean up the product from all bugs and dirt, wash them, chop them and put them in a large pot. Pour water in it and bring it to boil, then simmer, cover it for an hour or two. Weaker coloring products, such as tree leaves or onion skins can be left to soak overnight to draw out the color.

Take sample in a clear glass, to check desired color. Then strain out the plant and all other solid matter leaving the colored bath. Add the material or yarn, simmer the material in the colored bath for 30 minutes than rinse in a bath of cold water and vinegar mixture of 10 parts to 1 (e.g., 10 parts cold water to 1 part vinegar) before washing it with a natural soap and  hang to dry. 

More Information on Dyeing:

  • The kind of natural occurring products that can be used to make dyes are flower petals, grass, bark, roots, leaves, clay, and vegetables e.g. colorful carrots and beets etc., are perfect items making dyes.
  • Some fabrics are more susceptible to dye than others. Like wool is much more accepting of natural dyes than cotton though cotton is the most common cloth used in fabric dyeing. As a result many hobbyists dye wool yarn because it looks excellent. It accepts the dye easily and more quickly than cotton and can be used to knit sweaters, shawls, blankets. Linen and silk are also great to use in fabric dyeing.
  • The dye water can be re-used, however, as with any dye, after each usage, the dye will become weaker and weaker. This is important information to know especially if you are dyeing wool yarn for knitting. As a result, dye all of the yarn in the same vat of dye water in order to ensure that the colors for all of the yarn balls are identical.


Tie-dyeing is the art of creating designs in fabrics using multiple dyes along with elastic or rubber bands. The process is achieved by taking whatever material you wish to tie-dye and tightly binding it with elastics. Any area covered with elastic will resist the dye. Boil the elastic-bound material for 30 minutes in your choice of dye. If you wish to add a darker color, then bring a darker dye to a boil and add more elastics in addition to the original ones. Make sure to rinse the shirt in cold water between each dye bath. When you have finished dyeing the fabric, rinse the material thoroughly in cold water, remove the elastics, and hang it to dry.

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