Dyes are found seemingly everywhere in nature: in flowers, plants, fruits and veggies. And if you’ve always wanted to experiment with natural dyes, today’s the day! Not only is it incredibly easy to do but it’s also a great feeling throwing on a shirt or showing off a piece of fabric you dyed yourself with elements found right in your backyard. And when we say it’s an easy craft, we aren’t exaggerating; you can wrangle the kids to help you with this simple process too.
Here’s how to eco-dye with flowers — you’ll be a pro in no time.
How to use flowers to tie-dye fabric
Natural fibers take color better than synthetic fibers. Silk or wool dye better than cotton. In this tutorial, I used cotton flour-sack towels.
Before you begin, it’s better if you wash the fabric first. This will help remove any residual chemicals or dirt from the fabric and help it absorb the dye better. You can also use a fabric fixative. Make a fixative by mixing 4 parts water to 1 part vinegar prior to dyeing.
Any type of flower will stain the fabric during steaming. Try a combination of petals and leaves. Flowers that are already dried will work as well.
- A piece of natural-fiber fabric (cotton, silk or wool)
- Fresh or dried flowers (rose petals, hibiscus, golden rod, pansies)
- Rubber bands
- Large pot with a steamer rack
Lay the fabric flat. Sprinkle the flowers and/or leaves all over the fabric. You can leave more or less space if you want. Fold the fabric over the petals. Do a section at a time to make sure that you are getting a layer of petals in each fold.
Bind the ends with rubber bands. Add a rubber band in the middle to secure the bundle.
Set the flower bundles on a steamer rack in a pot of water. Place on a burner and set to a low heat. Let the bundles steam for about an hour. Periodically check to make sure the pot has an ample amount of water.
After an hour, turn off the heat and allow the bundles to cool. Once cooled, remove the bundles and unroll. Remove the flowers. Don’t get too excited at this point. The colors look vivid right now, but they will dry lighter.
Give the fabric a quick rinse in cool water. Hang to dry. The colors will dry significantly lighter.
Use these eco-dyed fabrics for decorative purposes. Because I used cotton with no fixative, the colors will eventually fade. I use these flour-sack towels to wrap bundles of bread or as a small tablecloth. Try experimenting with other types of plant materials and with silk or wool.
A version of this article was originally published in November 2014.