Making Natural Dyes from Plants

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!

Gathering plant material for dyeing: 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 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. Now you can add your fabric to be dyed. For a stronger shade, allow material to soak in the dye overnight.

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.

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.

Dye Bath: Place wet fabric in dye bath. Simmer together until desired color is obtained. The color of the fabric will be lighter when its dry. Also note that all dyed fabric should be laundered in cold water and separately.

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.

A Listing of Plant Material Available for Dyes

Shades of ORANGE


- Alder (Alnus rubra) (Bark)- orange

- Barberry (mahonia sp.) yellow orange (with alum) very strong & permanent. Any part of the plant will work.

- Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) (roots when cut open - fresh)- mordant: alum - will give a good orange to reddish orange color.

- Butternut Tree (Juglans cinerea) - (bark, seed husks) - light yelllow-orange

- Carrot (Daucus carota) - (roots) - orange

- Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

- Eucalyptus - (all parts, leaves and bark) beautiful shades of tan, deep rust red, yellow, green, orange and chocolate brown.

- Giant Coreopsis (Coreopsis gigantea) Yields bright permanent orange with alum.

- Golden Marguerite  (Anthemis tinctoria)(fresh or dried flowers) - mordant: chrome - golden orange

- Lichen (orchella weed) (Roccellaceae) - gold, purple, red

- Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) (twigs) - yellow/orange

- Madder (Rubia tinctorum ) (fresh roots) - mordant: tin - orange

- Onion (Allium cepa) (yellow skin - fresh or dried) - mordant: tin - bright orange

- Onion (Allium cepa) (red skin - fresh or dried) - mordant: alum - reddish orange

- Onion (Allium cepa) (yellow skin - fresh or dried) - mordant: alum - burnt orange

- Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) (fresh or dried fruit)  mordant: chrome - rust

- Pomegranate (skins)– with alum anywhere from orange to khaki green.

- Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius)  (fresh or dried flowers) - mordant: tin - rust

- Sassafras (leaves)

- St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) - (fresh flowers) - mordant: tin - orange/red

- Sunflower

- Turmeric (Curcuma longa) dyed cloth will turn orange or red if it is dipped in lye.

- Weld



Shades of BROWN

- Acorns (boiled)

- Amur Maple (Acer Ginnala)- black, blue, brown from dried leaves.

- Barberry - (all plant, fresh or dried ) - mordant: alum - tan

- Beetroot -Dark Brown with FeSO4

- Birch (bark) - Light brown/ buff - Alum to set

- Broom - (bark) - yellow/brown

- Broom Sedge - golden yellow and brown

- Butternut Tree (Juglans cinerea) - (bark) -dark brown - boil the bark down to concentrated form

- Burdock

- Cascara sagrada

- Coffee Grinds

- Colorado Fir - (bark) - tan

- Coneflower (flowers) - brownish green ; leaves and stems - gold

- Comfrey ( Symphytum officinale) (leaves) - mordant: iron - brown

- Dandelion (roots) brown

- Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) (fresh flowers, leaves) mordant: chrome - golden brown

- Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) (fresh tops) mordant: iron - brown

- Geranium

- Goldenrod (shoots ) - deep brown

- Hollyhock (Alcea) (petals)

- Hops

- Ivy - (twigs) - yellow/brown

- Juniper Berries (Juniperus)

- Madder (Rubia tinctorum ) (roots) - mordant: iron - brown

- Oak bark will give a tan or oak color.

- Onion (Allium cepa) (red skin - fresh or dried) - mordant: tin - tan/brown

- Onion (Allium cepa) (yellow skin - fresh or dried) - mordant: iron - brown

- Onion (Allium cepa) (red skin - fresh or dried) - mordant: chrome - dark tan

- Oregon Grape (Mahonia Aquifolium) (fresh roots) mordant: chrome - tan

- Oregon Grape (Mahonia Aquifolium) (fresh roots) mordant: alum - light yellow brown

- Oregon Grape (Mahonia Aquifolium) (fresh, all plant) mordant: alum - khaki gold

- Oregano - (Dried stalk) - Deep brown- Black

- Pine Tree Bark - light medium brown. Needs no mordant.

- Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) (dried fruit)  mordant: alum - brown

- Potentilla (Potentilla verna) (fresh roots)  mordant: chrome - brown/red

- Poplar

- Raspberry (tan)

- St John's Wort (blossom) - brown

- St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) - (fresh stems) - mordant: alum - brown/red

- Sumac (leaves) - tan

- Sunflower (tan)

- Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratium) (fresh leaves, stems) mordant: alum - tan

- Tea Bags - light brown, tan

- Uva Ursi (Arctostaphylos Uva-ursi) (fresh leaves) - camel

- Walnut (hulls) - deep brown (wear gloves) - black

- White Birch - (inner bark) - brown

- White Maple (bark) - Light brown/ buff - Alum to set

- Wild plum root will give a reddish or rusty brown.

- Yellow dock (shades of brown)


Shades of PINK

- Avocado from skin and seed - a light pink hue.

- Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) (roots - fresh)- mordant: alum - reddish pink

- Camilla -It's a nice pink-magenta. With lemon and salt.

- Cherries

- Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)(all plant - fresh) - magenta

- Grand Fir - (bark) pink

- Lichens - A pink, brown, or wine colored dye can be produced from a lichen known as British soldiers.

- Madder (Rubia tinctorum ) (roots) - pink

- Pokeweed

- Raspberries (red)

- Roses and Lavender, with a little mint and some lemon juice to activate the alkaloids can make both a brilliant pink dye and a very tasty pink lemonade.

- Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) (fresh fruit)  mordant: alum - pink

- Sorrel

- Strawberries

- Woad (Isatis tinctoria) (fresh, young leaves) - mordant: alum - pink

Shades of BLUE - PURPLE

- Blackberry (fruit) strong purple

- Blueberries

- Cherry (roots)

- Cornflower - (petals) blue dye with alum, water

- Dogwood (bark) - blue

- Dogwood - (fruit) greenish-blue

- Elderberry (Sambucus spp.) - lavender

- Elderberry (Sambucus spp.) (fresh berries) - mordant: alum - violet

- Elderberry (Sambucus spp.) (fresh berries) - mordant: tin- blue/gray

- Elderberry (Sambucus spp.) (fresh berries) - mordant: chrome - blue

- Geranium (Geranium sylvaticum) - blue/gray

- Grapes (purple)

- Hyacinth - (flowers) - blue

- Indigo (leaves) - blue

- Japanese indigo (deep blue)

- Lady's Bedstraw (Gelium verum) (roots -fresh or dried) - mordant: iron - plum

- Raspberry -(fruit) purple/blue

- Red cabbage

- Red Cedar Root (purple)

- Red Maple Tree (purple)(inner bark)

- Mulberries (royal purple)

- Nearly Black Iris - (dark bluish purple) alum mordant

- Oregon Grape (Mahonia Aquifolium) -(fresh fruit) mordant: alum - blue/purple

- Queen Anne's Lace

- Saffron - (petals) blue/green

- Purple Iris - blue

- Smilex (S. aspera) - blue

- Sweetgum (bark) - purple / black

- Woad (Isatis tinctoria)(first year leaves) Woad gives a pale to mid blue color depending on the type of fabric and the amount of woad used.

- Woad (Isatis tinctoria) (fresh, young leaves) - blue


Shades of RED - BROWN

- Bamboo - turkey red

- Bedstraw (Galium triflorum) (root) - red

- Beets - deep red

- Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) (root) - red

- Brazilwood

- Burdock

- Canadian Hemlock - (bark) reddish brown

- Cascara sagrada

- Chokecherries

- Comfrey ( Symphytum officinale)

- Crab Apple - (bark) - red/yellow

- Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) (root)

- Dock (Rumex spp.) (fresh young leaves) -mordant: chrome - red

- Elderberry (Sambucus spp.)

- Fennel

- Geranium

- Hibiscus Flowers (dried)

- Hops

- Japanese Yew - (heartwood) - brown dye

- Juniper

- Kool-aid

- Lady's Bedstraw (Gelium verum) (roots -fresh or dried) - mordant: alum - red

- Madder (Rubia tinctorum ) (fresh roots) - mordant: alum - lacquer red

- Madder (Rubia tinctorum ) (fresh roots) - mordant: chrome - garnet red

- Onion

- Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) (fresh fruit)  mordant: alum -  red

- Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) (fresh fruit)  mordant: tin - red

- Pomegranate - (whole or the peel of) Between purple-red to pink from fresh pomegranate, and a brown color from very overripe (beginning to rot) pomegranate.

- Poplar

- Potentilla

- Red leaves will give a reddish brown color I use salt to set the dye.

- Rose (hips)

- St. John's Wort - (whole plant) soaked in alcohol - red

- Sumac (fruit) - light red

- Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratium) (fresh roots) mordant: alum - red

- Sycamore (bark)- red

- Wild ripe Blackberries


Shades of GRAY-BLACK

- Alder

- Blackberry

- Black Walnut

- Butternut Hulls

- Elder

- Elderberry (Sambucus spp.) (fresh bark) - mordant: iron - gray

- Carob pod (boiled) will give a gray to cotton

- Iris (roots)

- Meadowsweet makes an amazing black dye.

- Oak galls - makes a good black dye.

- Poplar

- Raspberry

- Rusty nails & vinegar - set with Alum

- Sawthorn Oak - (seed cups) - black

- Sumac (leaves) (Black)

- Sunflower

- Walnut (hull) - black

- Yarrow


Shades of RED - PURPLE

- Basil - purplish grey

- Beluga Black Lentils - soaked in water overnight .. yield a dark purplish / black water. The color is washfast and lightfast and needs NO MORDANT and it lasts - a beautiful milk chocolate brown (when super thick) ... to a lighter medium brown or light brown when watered down.

- Hibiscus (flowers, dark red or purple ones) - red-purple.

- Dark Hollyhock (petals) - mauve

- Daylilies (old blooms)

- Huckleberry - lavender (can use it for dye and also for ink.)

- Lady's Bedstraw (Gelium verum) (roots -fresh or dried) - mordant: chrome - purplish red

- Logwood (is a good purple but you have to watch it as it dyes quick when the pot is fresh. Also it exhausts fast. We use alum to mordant and using iron can give you logwood gray.)

- Pokeweed (berries)

- Portulaca - (flowers, dried and crushed to a powder) use with a vinegar orsalt mordant, can produce strong magentas, reds, scarlets, oranges and yellows (depending upon the color of the flower)

- Potentilla (Potentilla verna) (fresh roots)  mordant: iron - purple-red

- Safflower - (flowers, soaked in alcohol) - red


Shades of GREEN

- Agrimony

- Angelica

- Artemisia species provide a range of greens from baby's breath to nettle green.

- Artichokes

- Barberry root (wool was dyed a greenish bronze-gold)

- Bayberry ( Berberis vulgaris) (all plant: fresh or dried)  - mordant: iron - dark green

- Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) - bright olive/apple green

- Broom - (stem) green

- Camellia - (pink, red petals) - green

- Chamomile (leaves) - green

- Coneflower (flowers) - green

- Dock (Rumex spp.)(fresh leaves) - mordant: iron - dark green

- Foxglove - (flowers) apple green

- Grass (yellow green)

- Hydrangea (flowers) - alum mordant, added some copper and it came out a beautiful celery green

- Larkspur - green - alum

- Lilac - (flowers) - green

- Lily-of-the-valley (light green) be careful what you do with the spent dye bath. The plant is toxic so try to avoid pouring it down the drain into the water supply.

- Majoram (Origanum Majorana) - (fresh whole tops) - mordant: alum - green

- Majoram (Origanum Majorana) - (fresh whole tops) - mordant: chrome - olive green

- Mulga Acacia - (seed pods) - green

- Nettle

- Peach - (leaves) yellow/green

- Peony (flowers) - pale lime green

- Peppermint - dark kakhi green color

- Pigweed (entire plant) yellow green

- Plantain Roots

- Purple Milkweed - (flowers & leaves) - green

- Queen Anne's Lace - pale green

- Red onion (skin) (a medium green, lighter than
forest green)

- Red Pine (needles) green

- Sage (Salvia officinalis) (fresh tops) - mordant: iron -  green gray

- Snapdragon - (flowers) - green

- Spinach (leaves)

- Sorrel (roots) - dark green

- Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) (fresh tops) mordant: iron - dark green

- Tea Tree - (flowers) green/black

- Uva Ursi (Arctostaphylos Uva-ursi) (fresh, all plant) - mordant: alum and iron - green

- White Ash - (bark) - yellow

- Yarrow - (flowers) yellow & green shades

- Yarrow ( Achillea Millefolium) (Fresh, all plant ) mordant: iron- olive green




- Achiote powder (annatto seed)

- Balm (blossom) - rose pink

- Broom Flower

- Jewelweed - orange/peach

- Plum tree (roots) (salmon color on wool with alum)

- Virginia Creeper - (fruit) - pink (all parts); alum mordant; Peach.

- Weeping Willow (wood & bark) makes a peachy brown (the tannin acts as a mordant)




- Betony (Stachys officinalis)  (all plant - fresh ) - mordant: alum - chartreuse

- Broom ( Cytisus scoparius) (tops) - mordant: alum - green yellow

- Feverfew ( Chrysanthemum Parthenium) (fresh leaves, stems) - mordant: chrome - greenish yellow

- Foxglove ( Digitalis purpurea) (fresh flowers) - mordant: alum - chartreuse

- Goldenrod  (Solidago spp.)(all plant - fresh) - mordant: iron - yellow/green

- Nettle (Uritca dioica) )(all plant - fresh) - mordant: alum- yellowish green

- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) (fresh flowers, leaves)  mordant: alum - yellow-green

- Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) (fresh young leaves) mordant: alum - yellowish green

- Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) (fresh flowers) mordant: alum - greenish/yellow



- Agrimony (fresh leaves, stems) - mordant: alum - brassy yellow

- Alfalfa (seeds) - yellow

- Bay leaves - yellow

- Barberry ( Berberis vulgaris) (inner bark, fresh or dried) - yellow

- Barberry  ( Berberis vulgaris) (roots, bark, fresh or dried) - mordant: tin  -  yellow

- Beetroot (yellow) (alum & K2Cr2O7)

- Broom ( Cytisus scoparius)(fresh flowers) - mordant: chrome - deep yellow

- Broom ( Cytisus scoparius) (fresh flowers) - mordant: alum - bright yellow

- Burdock - yellow

- Cameleon plant (golden)

- Chamomile, Roman (Chamaemelium nobile)(fresh flowers) - mordant: chrome - yellow

- Chamomile, Roman (Chamaemelium nobile)(fresh flowers) - mordant: alum - bright yellow

- Celery (leaves)

- Crocus - yellow

- Daffodil (flower heads after they have died); alum mordant

- Dahlia Flowers (Red, yellow, orange flowers) make a lovely yellow to orange dye for wool.

- Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)  (fresh flowers) - mordant: alum - soft yellow

- Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)  (fresh flowers) - mordant: tin - yellow

- Dock (Rumex spp.)(fresh roots) - mordant: alum - deep yellow

- Dock (Rumex spp.)(fresh leaves) - mordant: alum - yellow

- Dock (Rumex spp.)(fresh late leaves) - mordant: chrome - gold

- Dyer's Greenwood (shoots) - yellow

- Elderberry (Sambucus spp.) (fresh leaves) - mordant: alum - soft yellow

- Elderberry (Sambucus spp.) (fresh leaves) - mordant: chrome- deep yellow

- Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) (fresh flowers, leaves) mordant: alum - mustard yellow

- Fenugreek - yellow

- Fustic  (Chlorophora tinctoria or Maclura tinctoria) (wood)  -  yellow

- Golden Marguerite  (Anthemis tinctoria)(fresh or dried flowers) - mordant: tin - yellow

- Golden Marguerite  (Anthemis tinctoria)(fresh or dried flowers) - mordant: alum - yellow buff

- Goldenrod  (Solidago spp.)(flowers - fresh) - mordant: alum - yellow

- Goldenrod  (Solidago spp.)(flowers - fresh) - mordant: chrome - gold

- Goldenrod  (Solidago spp.)(flowers - fresh) - mordant: tin - bright yellow

- Grindelia - yellow

- Heather - (plant) - yellow

- Hickory leaves (yellow) if plenty of leaves are boiled and salt added.

- Horseradish - yellow

- Lady's Bedstraw (Gelium verum) (tops -fresh) - mordant: alum - dull yellow

- Larkspur -  yellow

- Lavender Cotton (Santolina Chamaecyparissus) (flowers, leaves -fresh) - mordant: chrome - gold

- Lavender Cotton (Santolina Chamaecyparissus) (flowers, leaves -fresh) - mordant: alum - yellow

- Marigold (Tagetes spp. or Calendula spp.) (flowers - fresh or dried) - mordant:  alum - yellow/tan

- Marigold (Tagetes spp. or Calendula spp.) (flowers - fresh or dried) - mordant:  chrome - gold

- Mimosa - (flowers) yellow

- Mullein (leaf and root) pale yellow. *careful, because the little fuzzy hairs can make one itchy!

- Mullein (verbascum thapsus) (flowers) bright yellow or light green.

- Nettle (Uritca dioica) )(all plant - fresh) - mordant: chrome - tan

- Old man's beard lichen - yellow/brown/orange shades

- Onion (Allium cepa) (yellow skin - fresh or dried) - mordant: alum - yellow

- Onion (Allium cepa) (red skin - fresh or dried) - mordant: chrome - gold

- Onion (Allium cepa) (yellow skin - fresh or dried) - mordant: chrome - brass

- Oregon-grape roots - yellow

- Osage Orange also known as Bois d'arc or hedgeapple (heartwood, inner bark, wood, shavings or sawdust) (pale yellow)

- Oxallis (wood sorrels) (flowers) - the one with the yellow flowers. Use the flower heads, some stem ok. It is nearly fluorescent yellow, and quite colorfast on alum mordanted wool.

If the oxalis flowers are fermented or if a small dash of cloudy ammonia is added to the dye bath (made alkaline) the fluorescent yellow becomes fluorescent orange. Usually I do this as an after-bath, once I have the initial colour. Useful for shifting the dye shade, and some good surprises in store!

- Queen Anne's Lace

- Paprika -pale yellow - light orange

- Peach (leaves) - yellow

- Plaintain (Plantago major) (fresh, all plant) - mordant: alum - dull yellow

- Plaintain (Plantago major) (fresh, all plant) - mordant: chrome - camel

- Pomegranate (peel) - yellow

- Red Clover (whole blossom, leaves and stem) alum mordant - gold

- Saffron (stigmas) - yellow - set with Alum.

- Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius)  (fresh or dried flowers) - mordant: alum - yellow

- Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius)  (fresh or dried flowers) - mordant: iron - brass

- Sage (Salvia officinalis) (fresh tops) - mordant: alum -  yellow

- Sage (Salvia officinalis) (fresh tops) - mordant: chrome -  deep yellow

- Salsify - yellow

- Sassafras (bark)- yellow

- St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) - (flowers & leaves) - gold/yellow

- St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) - (fresh tops) - mordant: alum - medium yellow

- St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) - (fresh tops) - mordant: chrome - bright yellow

- Sumac (bark) - The inner pith of Sumac branches can produce a super bright yellow color.

- Sunflower - (flowers) - yellow

- Syrian Rue (glows under black light)

- Tansy (tops) - yellow

- Tea ( ecru color)

- Turmeric (spice) --bright yellow

- Weld (bright yellow)

- White mulberry tree (bark) Cream color onto white or off-white wool. Alum mordant.

- Willow (leaves)

- Yarrow ( Achillea Millefolium) (Fresh flowers) mordant: alum - yellow and gold

- Yellow cone flower (whole flower head); chrome mordant; Brass to Greeney-Brass.

- Yellow, Curly, Bitter, or Butter Dock (despite various leaf shapes, all have a bright yellow taproot) gives you a yellow/flesh color.


Author: - Ingredients for a Simple Life


Photo credits: Alvimann | Kevin Connors

206 Responses

  1. if i use beet root for colour what fixative should i use?

  2. Tea tree oil soap needs to carry biochemicals which have the ability to kill harmful bacteria, fungi and other microbes causing skin allergies, infections and sometimes diseases. The oil traps the microbes at the first instant, when it is trying to enter the skin.

  3. Nikki

    Could you please elaborate how you get purple dye from Queen Anne’s Lace? Everything I have read says it will make a pale yellow (flowers) or pale green (whole plant) dye. I rarely mordant wool or protein fibers like silk. I use an acidic bath (lemon juice or vinegar) for wool or other animal proteins or a basic bath (baking soda, soda ash, or ammonia) for cotton, linen, soy or mulberry silk or tencel. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  4. Connie M

    Wonderful info! Thanks for taking the time to share. I feel inspired to give it a go.

  5. Tamia Anderson

    My question you is about this plant called Rhodendron. There are thermometer plants. You didn’t say nothing about that and you should,really.

  6. Елена

    Спасибо за очень полезную информацию. Я занимаюсь нунофелтингом и постоянно окрашиваю шелк и шерсть. Теперь, благодаря вам, у меня будет намного шире цветовой спектр.Желаю новых творческих успехов! Спасибо.

    Translation: Thank you for the very useful information . I do nunofeltingom and permanently color the silk and wool . Now, thanks to you , I will have a much wider color spectrum, new creative successes ! Thank you.

  7. warila

    amazing what beautiful information about mother nature you have given me.

  8. Dawn

    Three questions:

    If I want to dye long lengths of fabric for draping (think Moroccan-style bed canopies or Indian wedding tenting), is there a way to just dye portions of the material but keep the color consistent throughout if I don’t have a large enough pot?

    Can used water or the plants that have been strained from the water be kept for repeated uses (for several weeks or months)?

    After I am completely done with the organic materials, can they be added to compost piles/bins or are there any issues from any of the mordants that would make this problematic?

  9. Cyndi

    Amazing listing! Thank you

  10. In fact, most of the natural dyes come from plants, although there are some that come from insects and mineral sources. Listing them up here was probably a very time-consuming task. I am a gardener and will most probably force myself to remember at least ten, so I could appear smart among colleagues! Jokes aside, a splendid list, really impressed.

    Regards, Zak

  11. Callie

    Can you do this with soap?

    • Hi – We are trying to make red dye. We’ve used strawberries, beetroot, cherries, tomatoes and tamarillos. We followed all the instructions, but upon washing the beetroot and strawberry samples – they completely washed out. Like totally – back to white calico.Can anyone help with advice please?

      Many thanks! Rhondda from New Zealand

  12. Patti DeRaps

    Thank you so much for all this wonderful information. So many beautiful colors . I want a blue green color but what I want to dye is a ver large duvet it is a silk/poly combo do you think it would work? What could I put it in and what mordant would I need?

  13. Maggie

    I tried doing this but after the hour of simmering all of the water had evaporated. Does anyone know what happened and how I can avoid it in the future? Also, since I need the dye by a certain time, I added more water to the pot and plan to let it sit overnight. Will the dye still work?

    • I would think covering the pot with a lid would keep it from evaporating as much. Might need to add a little water before going to bed.

  14. Can you tell me what sort of mordants or fixatives were used in the seventeenth century? I am writing my 3rd novel set in 1689 New Hampshire and need to know. Thank you! 🙂

    • Patti DeRaps

      I am from Dover NH originally I would love to know the names of your novels if they are all set in NH?

    • Memy

      One very common fixative was stale urine. There was a barrel set outside of the ale house for men to relieve themselves in. This was taken and used to set colors such as indigo. The uric acid was the active ingredient. Several rinses in cold water will remove the smell.

  15. Suzi Kwak

    Fantastic, thanks for sharing ,

  16. Louisa

    Thank you for this wonderful information! I just gave plant dying a try for the first time and LOVE the results. So fun. And addicting!

  17. Audrey

    I was wondering if anyone knew how to get the plants?
    As in, where do I buy them? I live in Clevand, Ohio.
    Specifically, the red clover alum mordant to make gold.

  18. Zane

    Anyone know how to do black cant find anything other than on the website and I don.t have access to these material. Thanks

    • Alexandra

      Hey, so I hope this helps: Grey/ Black can be made with Blackberries, Walnut Hulls and Iris root. It often takes a higher ratio of plant material/dye to water to achieve a truly black color. If you’re using a mordant rather than just vinegar use Alum or tin for a warm grey/ black, or use Iron or copper to create a cool black.

      • Alex

        I used blackberries and got a magenta color.

  19. angie

    i heard you can make ink from gunnera plants. has anyone done this? whats it like and can anyone tell me how to, please!

  20. Daniell Segovia

    would color last if I dye using organic bamboo cotton fabric?
    any other tricks to make it last longer 🙂
    thanks hope these aren’t silly questions

    • Beth

      Do not use bamboo fabric as it has a very bad carbon footprint. Yes it is a renewable source, but it takes lots of chemicals and water to soften the fibers. And the water just becomes so polluted from this process. Bamboo is so hard that it makes for great furniture and floors, but not for fiber.

      • That’s very interesting, I didn’t know that. Bamboo is much talked about as an eco friendly fibre these days so I will look into this further. I was recently looking into fabric types for making my own flat cloth nappies and am so glad I chose a hemp and organic cotton blend over bamboo now. I had a nagging feeling at the back of my mind not to trust all the hype 🙂

  21. Hi there, I am a furniture designer working in Japan. I see here that is is possible to make a “Turkey red” dye using bamboo, but I can’t find out how anywhere! I would be so so grateful if someone could explain how, or tell me where I can find out?

    Thank you so much

    Freyja Sewell

    • Christin M.

      boiling the shoots in water does the trick:

  22. jack.n

    now it makes sencce.

  23. jack.n

    if you us

  24. Stephanie Quattrini

    Thanks for all the information – generous of you to share.
    My question is about dyeing paper which is my latest ‘obsession.’ I wonder if anyone has advice on fixing the dye on paper. What I usually do is roll up different types of paper (handmade, Japanese etc.) put 2cm methylated spirits in a glass jar, add food colouring add paper and put lid on jar for an hour. Have to use meths in Australia as it is not possible to obtain rubbing alcohol above 60%.
    All suggestions welcome!

  25. jean kirkman

    I was wondering if there are any courses or 1 day workshop to dye wool in or around Wiltshire.I think it will be for anytime in 2016 now.
    Thank you

  26. jackie

    My light ivory, hand crocheted sweater turned white in the wash. I would like to return it to the original color light ivory.
    What would you recommend? It is one of a kind.

    Thank you.

  27. Gins

    Love this site. Been dyeing for 25 years. Great tips!. Thanks

  28. Jackson Clark


  29. The pokeweed berries are amazing- they come out an amazing bright fuschia. This dye is pretty fickle, though- if the dye is dried at any time, the dye turns a gross brown. If heated, the pink will turn red and then orange; it will turn pinker with acid and purpler with base. A little baking soda will turn it royal purple and more will turn it blue, but beware- adding too much will cause all the soda to sink to the bottom like sludge, and the dyed stuff will be pale yellow. To get that trademark pink stain, use only the juice from FRESH, RIPE berries, do not heat, use a vinegar mordant.

    • Update- baking soda does not make pokeweed purple, just pale yellow. Alum as a mordant on un-heated berries, however, makes a beautiful royal violet color!! Not sure how lightfast it is, though. Seems too good to be true.

      • jack.n


  30. Bill Haynie

    Has anyone experimented with Hemp as a green dye? Thanks, Bill

    • mike hunt

      ye hemp turns a lovely light green and if you light it on fire you see lots of diffremt colours cause yo ass is high

      • Sarah

        Lol….good one!!….lol. If u could use it for stain, probably still wouldn’t want to. Bet it would leave that skunky stench along with any color! Ugh!

      • Lorin

        Hemp is not pot ^^

        This is wonderful list, but please consider removing bloodroot from your list. It’s endangered.

      • eloiseholland

        Bloodroot can also raise weals on your skin. Don’t use it. A lot of the dye materials listed are not very light fast. Try the Yahoo Natural Dye group for good well researched info.

  31. Taylor

    I saw where someone already asked this question, however there was no response. Thought I would give it a try.
    Can you use these for leather? I know walnut hulls and black vinagroon will do but was curious of the other materials.

  32. PTHops

    If you are making a dye using both the berry and the bark of a tree would you add both salt and vinegar as the fixative . Your directions suggest salt for berries and vinegar for plant. I am looking at making a black with the Mountain Ash (Rowan tree)

  33. Hi, this is amazing information and very well arrenged and also good discussions Happy to find this link
    My name is Abhijit v pawasakr i am an artist from India. working with specific dyes and flower extracts as per my requrnment and experiments need . i regulerly blog my work as far i understood and experienced this the greater way to connect people and same time detach for creative and inspiational attachments .
    – Thank you Again – abhijit

  34. Rowan

    Thank you for this list. I am very interested in the topic, and am going to start today!

  35. Patricia Mowat Slater

    Couldn’t find lavender on your list. Does it need any special treatment?

  36. susan

    hi could you tell me please what the ratio is for the lavender + roses to obtain pink also how much mint and lemon juice to add please, quantities to dye a 1lb of wool would be much appreciated

  37. Sarajoy

    Hello everyone,
    This question was asked a couple times already, but there was no response…
    Does anyone have ideas on if or how natural dyes can be stored long(er) term?
    Thanks! I appreciate any comments!

    • I have stored dyes for up to a year in an air tight plastic or glass containers. Just be sure to add a little vinegar to the dye. It keeps mold from growing. Even if it does get moldy, you can remove it before use. I do know that dye made from Black Walnuts will eat through plastic. It has to be stored in glass. My Onion Skin dye seems to be fine in plastic milk jugs so far.

  38. Erica

    It should be mentioned that it’s best to use a stainless steel pot if you want true colour results. Other metals, like copper will affect the final colour… or you can use this to your advantage and use the different metal pots instead of mordants (but I have only read about that, never actually tried it).

    Likewise, your water quality can also affect your colours.

  39. Marleen

    If I wanna dye pure wol do I also have to preper the wol with vinegar of with aluin?

    • Prepare the wool or yarn by soaking it in warm soapy (Dawn) water before entering it into the dye bath. The vinegar goes in the dye bath before you introduce the wool.

  40. Brenda Lee Sawich

    When I experience hypermania, my mind gets frantic and I want to remember things and I write on my wrist with pen ink. I am concerned about the toxicity of the ink and was looking for somehow to have a way to write with natural food ‘ink’ that would last for a time, then fade away. I thought of making a bracelet however, I find bracelets get in my way a lot as due to a Crohn’s flare up I have to go to the bathroom several times a day and taking bracelets on and off is an added aggravation. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  41. Laura

    Thank you for th information. This was my first stop after Googling “natural fabric dyes”, and it looks like it is the only stop I need to make. Nothing left to do now but find something to dye then go outside and start picking. You just made my life a little bit easier. 🙂

    • Laura

      I forgot to mention, I don’t think “Kool-Aid” qualifies as a natural dye. But seeing it on the list did give me an idea for my project, so thanks again.

  42. Susana


    I have purchased some pashminas from a store (le Chateau) and the item came with a tag stating that the product should be washed in cold water prior to use due to it being died with plant-derived products. I took it home and washed it by hand; this was a mistake. The viscose pashmina has stained my hands and nails a bright blue colour. It also stained the sink , which I was able to clean with baking soda. However, after submerging it in clean water 20 times, the item is still bleeding a bright blue hue. I am terrified of wearing it as I suspect it will just continue to bleed everywhere, and goodness forbid that I sweat while wearing it as I believe it will rub off on my skin. What’s going on? Is this product wearable?

    • Sheryl Webb

      Its possible they never used a mordant. If you can figure out what the dye is, possibly you could mordant it yourself before any more lovely blue dye rinses out? I would use a glug of vinegar in a gallon of water to start and see how that works.

  43. Doug

    I also wonder if dye can be stored for later use. Seems feasible, perhaps if frozen ??

    • I have stored dyes for up to a year in an air tight plastic or glass containers. Just be sure to add a little vinegar to the dye. It keeps mold from growing. Even if it does get moldy, you can remove it before use.

  44. Sydney smith

    Can I do lettuce to make dye? Please help me before May 10. Thanks and this is for my school’s science fair.

    • Laura

      You would be better off using a much darker green. I don’t think lettuce will give you enough colour. Your dyes will almost always be much lighter than what you use to make them. But if you do try it, try to get the darkest coloured lettuce you can, something like romain.

      Sorry, I just realized this answer is too late to help you. Hope the science fair went well.

  45. Can I use dandelion leaves for dyeing as well?!?

    • Laura

      I don’t see why not. I’m planning to try it. I’ve begun cultivating my dandelions for eating, so I’ve got lots of them. And since the rest of my family thinks I’m crazy and refuses to try eating them, I figured I might as well use some for making dye.

  46. Snow Cronan

    Once you have this made.. can you store the dye for later use?

    • Wendy

      I was also wondering if the dye can be saved for later perhaps by putting it in the freezer? I have a pot of Hopi red amaranth flowers that I saved from my garden, I added water to it yesterday, just experimenting, then I dipped a piece of buckskin in there to see what color it would give me and it was a beautiful pink/purple color. I’m not ready to use it yet though so I’ve been searching for an answer about storing it.

  47. donna sell

    Is it possible to get color out of basil?

    • Al

      Hi Donna, you can get colour out of basil. However, it actually makes an off yellow colour! Hope it helped!

  48. Eco printer

    Thank you so much for the tips, especially about the color-plant options. I would like to know if gum arabic can be used as binder for when ink from natural sources to make it ready for printmaking use. Thanks in advance for your advice.

  49. Mury Ceo

    Good evening everyone,

    This is my first time making my own dye. I’ve tried petunias on the stove but the water turned lovely green. I was looking for purple, so I have now soaked the petunias in a glass container on a window sill that gets plenty of sun. Oh my gosh, I cannot believe how beautiful and deep the colour is. now what, just pick what I would like to dye add a fixative and soak in the purple solution for a while, how long and will it be ok not to heat the dye??

    • Mury Ceo

      Ok two days no reply , good bye!

      • Kestrel

        I certainly hope that you fired her and shut down her hotline. How DARE she not be on call for you questions about dyes – especially when you only needed to read her lengthy, detailed post! She can’t seriously expect you to re-read THE FIRST PARAGRAPH THAT ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS.
        Then again, maybe she just didn’t know what you were asking because the lack of punctuation makes your last sentence fairly muddled.

        It’s an awesome, well-researched post with tons of valuable information. Why don’t you stop treating her like your personal resource and thank her for her time and effort instead?

      • Doug

        Thank you Kestrel … My thoughts well spoken by your words.

      • Well said.

  50. tevin

    i wish i could have that kind of stuff here.

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