Flowers, tea, onion skins and more can be used for this genius life hack

Oct 9, 2014 at 12:24 p.m. ET

There is an array of flowers, fruits, vegetables, spices, etc that can be used to dye fabrics and yarns. Why use food to dye your clothes when you can opt for natural and chemical free? People have been doing it for centuries.

Supplies needed:

  • 1-ounce bag of dried hibiscus petals
  • A large pot
  • Water
  • Fabric(I use cotton flour sack towels)
  • Rubber bands (optional)
Dry hibiscus

1. Add the dried hibiscus petals to the pot. Add about 8 cups of water. You can add more or less depending on the amount of fabric. You will need enough water to cover the fabric.

Dye bath

2. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat. Let the dye simmer for an hour.

Fabric

3. Prepare the fabric. If you plan to soak the fabric in a fixative, this is the time to do it. I folded my fabric into a square bundle and secured with rubber bands. Add the bundles to the dye.

Let the bundles simmer

4. Let the bundles simmer for about an hour and then turn off the heat. Let the bundles cool in the dye bath.

5. When the dye bath has cooled, remove the bundles. Rinse the bundles under cool water and remove the rubber bands. Hang to dry. The color will lighten when dried.

Hang to dry

Try experimenting with other spices, plants and fruit. You will be amazed at the different colors you can produce. Go crazy and mix up colors! Try dyeing your own scarves, napkins and tablecloths.

Things to know about natural dyes:

  • Natural fibers work the best: cotton, silk or wool. Cotton does not absorb the natural dye as well as silk or wool, but it will take some color.
  • If you want to make your dyed fabric colorfast, you need to soak the fabric in a fixative or mordant. This will help the color “stick” to the fiber.
  • Tea, coffee, turmeric, onion skins, rose petals, hibiscus petals, berries and many other things can be used to create natural dyes.

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