Home Edit: Making Natural Dyes at Home

Pile of naturally dyed fabrics

We all know recycling and donating is a brilliant way to manage our waste when it comes to fashion and homeware, but so often upcycling is overlooked! It can seem daunting to those of us who's sewing expertise extends to replacing the odd button here and there, but thankfully a needle and thread isn't the only way to go! 

Dyes are a great way to breathe new life into old fabrics, be it clothes, towels, cushion covers or bedding. The problem is that chemical dyes often cause more harm than good, with the harmful toxins and plastic packaging polluting water systems and the environment we look to protect by upcycling in the first place. 

Luckily, we've indulged in brightly coloured fabrics a long time before the plastic age came to fruition. Natural dyes are great alternatives that can provide fantastic results with the right knowhow and practice. Once again Mother (nature) really does know best!

What to Use

One great thing about natural dyes is how accessible they are; most supermarkets will stock all the things you need!

- Red cabbage, beetroot, strawberries, cherries, roses and any other red/pink flowers can be used for red/pink tones. 

- Turmeric, onion skins, and celery leaves can be used for yellow/ orange tones

- Coffee, Tea, walnut hulls can be used for brown tones

-Artichoke for green tones

-Lichen and black beans can be used for blues

Be aware that this process is intentionally staining things, so protect your surfaces, wear gloves, and use equipment you don't mind staining too...

 

Prepping your Fabric

It's best to use a natural fabric that's white or at least hasn't been dyed before. If there is existing colour, it can dramatically change the tone of the final dye. It's also important to use a fixative on the fabric to ensure that the pigment adheres as best it can! If you're using berries to dye your fabric, use a salt fixative. Put 1/2 cup salt in 8 cups of water. If youre using plants to dye your fabric, use a vinegar fixative. Combine one-part vinegar and flour to the dye. In either case, boil the fabric in the solution for one hour and then rinse in cold water before adding it to the dye. 

Making the Dye

Roughly chop your vegetable or plant, this increases the surface area of the pigment to create a more concentrated colour. Add twice the amount of water to whatever material you're using, then simmer for at least an hour. After this time, strain and return the liquid to the pot. 

Adding the Fabric

Make sure your fabric is wet when its added to the mixture! Simmer together in the dye bath for as long as it takes to reach your desired colour. Naturally the longer you leave it the more vibrant the colour! Once you're happy with the results, rinse in cold water and leave to air dry out of direct sunlight to prevent fading. 

And there you have it! Beautifully upcycled fabric with a new lease of life, all naturally sourced.