If you’ve had fun tie-dyeing shirts and other clothes, you’ll definitely love working with natural dyes. Mother Nature boasts a broad spectrum of colors that you can easily harvest if you’re willing. You can even combine your creativity with Mother Nature’s talent to get unique results.

If you’re wary of toiling over dye vats, just think of the lovely colors you can find as well as create using combinations and other techniques. From sunny yellows to magnificent shades of magenta to fresh greens – all you need is the right ingredient. The choice is astounding – roots, leaves, blossoms, berries and a variety of plant parts.

Unpredictable results will always come up while dyeing. Since dyeing is somewhat a time-consuming process, you should take measures to evaluate the results you’re likely to obtain. Always start with a sample white cotton cloth to test a dye. That way you will have an idea what to expect, even if there are variations depending upon the fabric and the original color of the dye.

You probably learned about the primary (red, yellow, blue), secondary (orange, green, violet) and tertiary colors in grade school. Dyeing with a variety of colors will serve as an enhanced experience in color combinations. So get started. Follow this easy guide for step-by-step instructions. In time, you may easily go from being a novice to an expert.

You can use five commonly available materials to make 5 different natural dyes for fabric.

Method 1: Using Beetroot

Things you’ll need:

Beetroot dye things need

  • Cloth (to be dyed)
  • Beetroot, chopped
  • Water
  • White vinegar

Step 1. Put chopped beetroots in a saucepan

Put chopped beetroots into a saucepan

Put finely chopped beetroots in a saucepan. Smaller pieces of the colored ingredient will create a more potent dye than larger pieces.

When selecting the beetroots, whether from a grocery store or your backyard, be sure to get the juiciest pick of the lot.

Step 2. Add water and let it simmer

Add twice the amount of water and let it simmer

Add water to the saucepan. The water should be twice the amount of the chopped beetroots.

Bring the beetroots to a boil. Cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer for about 1 hour. This will give the pigment in the beetroots enough time to leach into the water.

Step 3. Strain the liquid

Strain the liquid

After simmering for an hour, take the saucepan off the heat. Arrange a fine mesh colander over a bowl and strain the red liquid into the bowl. Your natural dye is ready.

This blood-red dye can provide you with an array of shades of red. Set the dye aside while you prepare the fixative.

Step 4. Combine water and vinegar in a saucepan

Combine wate and vinegar in a saucepan

Pour 4 cups of water into a saucepan and add 1 cup of white vinegar to it.

Step 5. Let the cloth simmer in the fixative

Let the cloth simmer in the fixative

Soak the fabric in the vinegar solution and turn the heat on. Cover the lid and let it simmer for approximately 1 hour. This will help the dye set into the fabric.

Step 6. Simmer the cloth in the dye

Simmer the cloth in the dye

Pour the dye into a saucepan placed over heat. Immerse the cloth in the dye completely with the help of a spatula or a pair of tongs. Let it come to a boil and continue over a low simmer for about 1 hour. Then, take the pan off the heat.

Let the cloth stay in the pan without heat until it acquires the desired shade of the color or leave it overnight for a more solid color. The longer you keep the cloth immersed, the darker the color you’ll get on the cloth. We soaked our cloth in the dye overnight, approximately 12 hours.

Step 7. Rinse and dry

Rinse and Dry

Rinse the cloth and let it dry. You’ll find that after rinsing, and especially after drying, the color of the fabric becomes considerably lighter than during the dye soak. So, always aim for a color that is a couple shades darker in the dye vat than what you need.

Our cloth came out in a light rose color. Your results will depend upon your fabric, the amount of time invested in the dye-soak and, of course, the potency of your beetroots.

Beetroot dye final

Method 2: Using Cherries

Things you’ll need:

Cherry dye things need

  • Cloth (to be dyed)
  • Cherries
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Mild liquid soap

Step 1. Put cherries in a saucepan

Add cherries to a saucepan

Remove the stalks from the cherries and put them in a saucepan. Be sure to select the plumpest and juiciest berries to make the dye.

Step 2. Add water and let it simmer

Add water and let it simmer

Add water to the pan that is about twice the amount of the cherries.

Turn on the heat and let the cherries come to a boil. Turn the heat down to a low simmer and cover the saucepan with a lid. Let the cherries simmer for at least 1 hour.

Step 3. Strain the red liquid

Strain the red liquid

Take the cherries off the heat and strain the red liquid through a fine mesh colander into a bowl. Your natural cherry dye is ready.

Step 4. Put water and salt in a saucepan

Combine water with salt in a saucepan

Pour 2 cups of water into a saucepan and place it over heat. Add ¼ cup of salt to the water and stir until it dissolves. This saline water acts as a fixative and helps the dye adhere to the fabric.

A salt-water fixative is usually used with dyes extracted from fruits and berries.

Step 5. Put the cloth in the salt water and let it simmer

Put the cloth into the salt water and let it simmer for 1 hour

Immerse the cloth in the salt water completely. Cover the pan with a lid and keep it over a low simmer for about 1 hour. Then, remove the cloth with a pair of tongs.

Step 6. Immerse the cloth in the dye and turn on the heat

Transfer the cloth to a saucepan containing dye

Pour the dye into a saucepan and place it over heat. Transfer the cloth to the saucepan and immerse it fully into the dye.

Bring the dye to a boil. Turn the heat down to a low simmer and cover the pan with a lid. Let the cloth simmer in the dye for just about 1 hour, then take the pan off the heat. If you wish to go for a darker shade of color, let the cloth soak in the dye for a longer period of time or even overnight without heat.

Go for a color that is a couple shades darker than the one you want. The cloth will turn out considerably lighter in color after washing and drying. We left our cloth soaking in the dye for about 12 hours.

Step 7. Wash the cloth in mildly soapy water

Wash the cloth in mildly soapy water

Remove the cloth from the dye and transfer it to mildly soapy water. Give the cloth a light wash. The soap will remove loose color that hasn’t adhered to the fabric, causing your fabric color to lighten. Rinse it and let it dry.

Our cloth came out a shade of purple since we used black cherries. If you’re using red cherries, expect shades of pink and red. The variation in pigmentation translates into a dye that imparts a different color on the fabric.

Cherry dye final

Method 3: Using Red Cabbage

Things you’ll need:

Red cabbage dye things need

  • Cloth (to be dyed)
  • Red cabbage, chopped
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Mild liquid soap

Step 1. Put chopped red cabbage in a saucepan

Put chopped red cabbage into a saucepan

Finely chop the leaves of the red cabbage. Put them in a saucepan.

Step 2. Pour in water and let it simmer

Pour in twice the amount of water and set the pan on a low simmer

Pour in water that’s twice the amount of the cabbage leaves.

Turn the heat on and bring the cabbage to a boil. Cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer for about 1 hour.

Step 3. Strain the liquid

Strain the liquid

Take the saucepan off the heat and strain the magenta liquid through a fine mesh colander into a bowl. This dye can be used to create shades of purple to pink.

Step 4. Combine water and vinegar in a saucepan

Combine water and vinegar in a saucepan

Pour 4 cups of water into a saucepan and add 1 cup of white vinegar to it. Most plant-based natural dyes require a vinegar solution fixative. The fixative helps the dye adhere to the fabric.

Step 5. Put the cloth in it

Put the cloth into it

Now, put the cloth into the vinegar solution. We have used a sample white cotton cloth. You may use a cloth of your choice.

Turn the heat on and bring the vinegar solution to a boil. Cover the saucepan with a lid and let it simmer for 1 hour.

Step 6. Immerse the cloth in dye and let it simmer

Transfer the cloth into a saucepan filled with dye

Using a pair of tongs, transfer the cloth from the vinegar solution to a saucepan filled with dye. Place the saucepan over heat.

Cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer for about 1 hour. Turn off the heat. If you desire a darker shade, you may keep the cloth soaked in the dye for a longer period of time. We soaked our sample cloth in the dye overnight.

Step 7. Wash the cloth in mildly soapy water

Wash the cloth in mildly soapy water

Place the cloth in mildly soapy water and give it a gentle wash. This will remove loose color that hasn’t adhered to the fabric, causing your fabric color to lighten.

Give it a rinse and let it dry. Our cloth turned out to be a light purple.

Red cabbage dye imparts shades of magenta on the fabric that change to purple or bluish purple as the fabric dries out, due to the change in the temperature.

Red cabbage dye final

Method 4: Using Tea

Things you’ll need:

Tea dye things need

  • Cloth (to be dyed)
  • Tea leaves
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Liquid soap

Step 1. Wash the fabric in soapy water

Wash the fabric in soapy water

Add a couple of drops of liquid soap to a bowl filled with water. Dissolve the soap completely. With light hands, wash the fabric. Rinse out the soap before proceeding.

Step 2. Combine water and tea leaves in a saucepan

Combine 3 cups of water and 1 cup of tea leaves in a saucepan

Pour 3 cups of water into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Add 1 cup of tea leaves to it.

You can choose any variety of tea. Note that different teas will impart different shades of brown to the fabric. Tea or coffee, in lighter shades, can be easily used to impart an antique look to your fabric.

Step 3. Let the tea simmer

Let the tea simmer for 25-30 minutes

Cover the pan with a lid and let the tea simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes.

Step 4. Strain the tea

Strain the tea

Strain the tea. Save the dark-colored brew, which will make an excellent dye.

Step 5. Soak the fabric in the brew

Soak the fabric in the brew

The amount of time that the fabric should soak in the brew depends upon the shade of color you desire. Although we soaked our fabric for 2 hours, you can soak it overnight for an intense result. When the fabric looks a couple shades darker than what you need, remove it from the tea.

Step 6. Soak the dyed fabric in pure white vinegar

Give the fabric pure white vinegar soak for about 20 minutes

Soak your freshly dyed fabric in a bowl of pure white vinegar for 20 minutes. This will help the dye set into the fabric.

Tea dye final

Method 5: Using Turmeric

Things you’ll need:

Turmeric dye thingsneed

  • Cloth (to be dyed)
  • Turmeric powder
  • Water
  • White vinegar

Step 1. Combine water and turmeric powder in a saucepan

Combine 3 cups of water and 1 cup of turmeric powder in a saucepan

Pour 3 cups of water into a saucepan placed over heat.

Add 1 cup of turmeric powder. You can also use raw turmeric root to make dye, the results of which will vary from that of the turmeric powder.

Step 2. Bring the turmeric to a boil and let it simmer

Bring the turmeric to a boil and let it simmer

Bring the turmeric powder to a boil. Cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer for about 1 hour.

Step 3. Strain out the yellow liquid

Strain out the yellow liquid

Strain out the rich yellow liquid using a fine mesh colander. If the turmeric powder leaks through the colander, you may need to use a fine muslin cloth to aid the straining process.

Step 4. Combine water and white vinegar in a saucepan

Combine 4 cups of water and 1 cup of white vinegar into a saucepan

Pour 4 cups of water into a saucepan placed on heat. Add 1 cup of white vinegar.

Again for a vegetative ingredient other than berries, we use a vinegar bath as a fixative to help the dye adhere to the cloth.

Step 5. Put the cloth in the pan and let it simmer

Add the cloth to the sauce pan and simmer for 1 hour

Put the cloth into the saucepan and cover it with a lid. Let the cloth simmer in the vinegar solution for just about 1 hour.

Step 6.Soak the cloth in the dye

Let the cloth soak in the dye

Put the cloth into the dye, immersing it fully. Let the cloth soak in the dye for about 1 hour or longer for more potent results. We let ours sit in the dye overnight. Use rubber gloves while handling the dye to keep your hands from going canary yellow.

Step 7. Wash the cloth

Wash the cloth

Wash the cloth in slightly soapy water to remove excess color.

Rinse the cloth and shake out any wrinkles. Let the cloth dry.

Turmeric dye final

Ours came out a bright canary yellow. You can also acquire lighter shades of lemon. If you use raw turmeric, you can also get shades of sunset orange.

Once you get familiar with the results produced by different materials and get an idea of the relationship between soak-time and the shades of a color, you’ll find it quite interesting. You can easily use natural dyes to upgrade the color scheme of your wardrobe or prepare for a coming occasion. Experiment with locally available materials that will be cost-effective as well as convenient.

Make natural dye final

Additional Tips

  • Prepare your workstation while dyeing. Cover the surface with newspapers and a plastic sheet to protect your surroundings as well as provide for an easy cleanup.
  • When selecting the ingredients to make natural dyes, always remember to choose ripe berries and mature nuts. If gathering plant parts like roots or leaves, they should be as fresh as possible. Go for flowers that are in full bloom.
  • Fair warning to those out there with tender olfactory faculties. While none of the materials used here stink (except vinegar), there are lots of roots, berries and leaves that can make you run with their foul odors.
  • The entire process should be done in a well-ventilated environment as some fumes, white vinegar especially, may not be good for your health. Never breathe in the fumes.
  • After rinsing the cloth, wring it out to remove excess water. Give the cloth a firm shake before you set it to dry. Wrinkles, where water may collect in the fabric, or dripping water give the fabric a streaky coloring.
  • Natural fabrics like cotton, wool and silk produce better results than synthetic fabrics.
  • Lighter colors receive the dye better than darker colors. White usually gives the best results. Unless you’re an expert in the chemistry of pigments and their combinations, start with whites.
  • For big projects, use large vessels, wear an apron and arm yourself with a pair of gloves, as some natural dyes can be quite stubborn.
  • Exercise caution while handling hot vessels, liquid or simmering fabric.
  • Some plant dyes may be toxic. Exercise caution accordingly.
  • Any change in the pH of the dye brings a change in the color. Alum and iron mordants may be added to alter the pH of the dyes and proffer a variety of colors with one dye.