How to Dye Fabric With Natural Dyes

Have you ever had a white t-shirt that fit perfect? I have one. The problem is that a lot of times, I wish it wasn’t white. Red or orange or green is more my style.

I thought about buying some dye to change the color, but you know what? Traditional chemical fabric dyes are not that great for the environment.

The cool thing is that you can dye any kind of natural fabric with vegetable or fruit. Native Americans have used fruits and vegetables for centuries to dye their clothes. And, we can still do it today. Dyeing clothes with natural dye is not only a great way to use up veggies or fruits that are on their way out, but it’s also a super-fun project to do with kids.

So, let’s jump in!

Fruits and Vegetables To Use

You can use all kinds of fruits and vegetables to dye fabric with, such as:

  • Plums
  • Red Onion Skin
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Grape juice
  • Lemons
  • Coffee
  • Red Cabbage

What to Do

Dying clothes with a natural dye is really easy. But you do need some kind of “fixative” to get it to permanently adhere to your fabric.

You can either use salt or vinegar for this. I found this wonderful recipe at CraftingaGreenWorld.com:

SALT FIX: 1/2 CUP SALT TO 8 CUPS COLD WATER
VINEGAR FIX: 4 PARTS COLD WATER TO 1 PART VINEGAR

All you have to do to get your dye going is this:

1. Prepare your vegetable. Most of the time all you’ll need is the skin, particularly with red onions. Set aside.

2. In another pot, prepare your “fixitive” recipe. Bring to a light boil, and add your fabric. Simmer your fabric in the fixative for at least an hour.

3. After an hour, carefully pull out your fabric from the simmering fixative. Wring out completely. Next, start a new pot with your “fixed” fabric. Add cold water to cover, and your chopped/grated fruits or vegetables. Bring to a simmer. This is where you’ll start to see the colors release into the water! Simmer for at least one hour.

Tips:

This is a really fun process to play with. How dark your color depends on several factors, including the fruit or vegetable you’re using, and how long you let it soak in the dye. Leslie over at CraftingAGreenWorld.com let her fabric sit in her plum dye overnight. The morning, she had a luscious pink fabric!

I highly recommend you go check out her article on natural fabric dyes. Her pictures are great, and it’s so exciting to see what rich colors you can get simply with food that’s growing right in your own backyard!

And for me? I can’t wait to give new life to some of my white t-shirts! I’m so excited, especially after seeing the gorgeous colors Leslie got with her plums. I might have to do this tonight!

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