June 10, 2015


How to Use Natural Dyes on Fabric

In the Bryce Collection we decided to test out natural dyeing with easy to find fruits and vegetables. Fruits, vegetables, and flowers have been used for years to alter the color of clothing. Turns out, making homemade dyes is easy, eco-friendly, and the cost is pretty cheap. Have some almost too old to eat blueberries in the back of your fridge? Now is the time to put them to good use!


  • Pink: raspberries, cherries, beets, strawberries, avocado skins and seeds (these turn out light but very pretty)
  • Purple/Blue: red cabbage, elderberries, red mulberries, blueberries, purple grapes
  • Red-brown: pomegranates, beets
  • Orange: carrots, onion skins
  • Brown: tea, coffee
  • Grey-black: blackberries
  • Yellow: paprika, turmeric, celery leaves



Some general rules:

  • - The type of fabric you use to dye should be one-hundred percent cotton, silk, linen and/or wool. You can test synthetics but they tend not to hold the dye. Natural is best.
  • - Pre wash your fabric by hand with gentle soap and water. No dye is absolutely fast from all conditions so take special care with your garment.
  • - It’s important to remember when working with natural dyes that experimentation is key. Depending on the amount of fruits or vegetables you use and how long you boil it down for or how long you leave a garment in the dye, the color you achieve will vary.
  • - Note that all dyed fabric should be laundered in cold water and separated from other garments (or by hand).




  • - fabric
  • - plant items
  • - a large pot
  • - knife
  • - water
  • - strainer or colander (optional)


Step 1: Prepare your fabric for dyeing. Prewash by hand with gentle soap and water.

Step 2: Chop plant material into small pieces and place in a pot. Double the amount of water to plant material. Bring to a boil, then simmer. The length of boiling/simmer time is really up to you. Typically, the longer you boil the more potent the dye becomes. Test a couple of fabric swatches in the pot as you boil to see if you like the color. Remember that the color will always dry a little lighter.

***You can use a colander first to remove the plant material if wanted - sometimes it's best to remove smaller items that have broken down like blackberries and raspberries.

Step 3: Dye your fabric! Submerge the fabric into the pot of dye. Allow to sit for desired length of time. For a stronger shade, allow material to soak in the dye overnight. 

Step 4: Rinse fabric thoroughly with clean water when finished and air dry.


To recreate the two tone dip-dye we used in the Outerlands Tote Bag we used a combination of blueberries and raspberries on one side, red onion skins on the opposite side. Simply dip the end of the fabric into the dye and allow it to sit enough time for the dye to soak towards the center of the tote. Rinse and repeat on the opposite side.  


You can also tie-dye using natural dyes! We tested a couple folding techniques and the basic rubber band technique on several pieces of fabric and they all came out beautifully. 

Have fun and try lots of different things! Here are some other resources we found helpful and interesting:


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almost 4 years ago

Is there a way to color fast after dying?



almost 4 years ago

Great tutorial!!!



almost 4 years ago

@lori2 you can use a mordant or fixative in the water like vinegar or salt. Try googling "natural dye mordants" and you'll get a wealth of information on the subject! This way you can find out what will work best for the type of fabric you are dyeing. Best of luck!