Friday, 2 August 2013

Playing With 'Natural' Dyes

Have you tried 'natural dyeing' or dyeing with things you commonly find around the house such as tea, beetroot or food dyes? I had a bit of a dabble this week. I made some camera cases out of felt which was made with natural white/cream coloured wools and fibres. I wanted to blanket stitch them with natural thread, but only had enough for one case and didn't feel like spinning any more up. The white cotton perle 5 thread and white embroidery floss I had was super bright white. This is the Perle cotton with my handspun natural thread.

I had lots of white embroidery floss, so I thought I'd see if I could colour them with what I had available. The first thing I tried was tea, I put a couple of used tea bags in a tub with boiling water and put the thread in. It looked too pinky, I rinsed out as much as possible but it wasn't right. The next thing I tried was coffee, I left some ground coffee 'brewing' in hot water for a few minutes, then sieved out the grounds.  I just left the thread in a short time and rinsed well, it was more of a beige, but still on the pinkish side. The Coffee is on the left and the tea on the right, with a bright white for comparison.

I left another skein of floss in coffee for longer then tried some onion skins. I've been saving red onion skins for a while so I thought I'd give them a try since I was making a mess anyway :) I broke up some of the papery skins and added hot water, I put the thread in and left it while the skins 'stewed' for a while. It turned out a nice light pink. The onion skins is on the left and coffee on the right.

I also left a skein of yellow in the brewed coffee for a while, to take some of the brightness off. There's a skein of the original colour for comparison.

The next thing I tried was turmeric. I know from making curries and dahls that turmeric stains plastic containers, so hoped a small amount would tint my thread. I sprinkled a small amount in a tub and added hot water, it seemed to dark, so I added more. And more. I dipped the end of some cotton perle 5 into the tub and rinsed immediately, but even this quick in-and-out stained it a bright yellow. I put the whole lot in and left it about 30 seconds and rinsed.

The turmeric was a gorgeous colour, nice and bright, but much more natural than the dyed bright yellow, the turmeric is on the top, the bottom is the bought dyed yellow:

I don't know what to try next. I tried bleach on a cotton thread the colour of sweetcorn silks, but it didn't change. I might just have to get the spindle out, but does anyone have any ideas for what I could try? Actually, any tips at all for 'natural' dyeing would be great, it'd be nice to be able to make some custom colours now and again :)

Coming up on the Felting and Fiber Studio site on Monday we have a guest article from rosiepink about what running a small fibre business entails.


  1. Sometimes salt is good to set the dye. And I've found that natural dyes can fade quite quickly in direct sunlight. I love the yellow turmeric gives though :)

    1. I never thought about salt, even though I always use it with RIT or Dylon, thanks :)
      The Turmeric was amazing, I loved that :)