Tutorial-Dyeing Yarn w/Fruits & Vegetable Scraps

by thecraftaholic

Mother nature offers a wealth of pigments for dyeing yarn and fabric. You’ve seen what can be done with RIT Dye. Just think of what you can do with everyday plants and herbs! Amazing!

General Info for The Beginner Dyer:

Use a good steel or un-chipped enamel pot for dyeing. You should make sure they are large enough (1 ½ gallon capacity is recommended)

Wear Rubber Gloves while working (unless you love having pink or blue fingers, which has happened to me)

Wash your pots and plants thoroughly before and after!

Never dry fibers in direct sunshine

Dye Sources and Shades

Shades of Blue

Blueberries (Purple)


Grapes (Purple)

Blackberries (Purple)

Shades of Pink



Raspberries (red)

Shades of Brown


Tea Bags

Coffee Grinds

Shades of Green





Shades of Yellow


Marigold Blossoms

Gathering plant material for dyeing: Blossoms should be in full bloom, berries ripe and nuts mature. Remember, never gather more than 2/3 of a stand of anything in the wild when gathering plant stuff for dying.

To make the dye solution: 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 for about an 20 minutes. Now you can add your fabric to be dyed.

Getting the fabric ready for the dye bath: You will have to soak the fabric in a color fixative before the dye process. This will make the color set in the fabric.

Dyeing your yarn

You should keep your yarn wound into hanks, not skeins. Remember to keep it tied, so nothing goes loose.

Color Fixatives:

Salt Fixative (for berry dyes) 1/2 cup salt to 8 cups cold water, or just eyeball it.

Plant Fixatives (for plant dyes) 4 parts cold water to 1 part vinegar

Add fabric to the fixative for a good 10 or 15 minutes.

Dye Bath: Place wet fabric in dye bath. Simmer together until desired color is obtained. The color of the fabric will be lighter when its dry. Also note that all dyed fabric should be laundered in cold water and separately.

Simmer for a half hour or up to an hour. Give it a cool rinse with cold water and squeeze again. Label and hang to dry. Dry it on a rod or coat hanger. Now and then turn the skein during drying, and give a gentle pull to stretch it.

Clip or tie on a label indicating the dye source, number the recipe.

After you take the yarn out of the dye bath, it should look like this (if you used wool):

Remember to take out the little bits of things out of the yarn.

Muslin, silk, cotton and wool work best for natural dyes and the lighter the fabric in color, the better. White or pastel colors work the best.

NOTE: It’s best to use an old large pot as your dye vessel. Wear rubber gloves to handle the fabric that has been dyed, the dye can stain your hands. It’s also important to note, some plant dyes may be toxic, check with the Poison Control Center if unsure.

*sources-www.pioneerthinking.com , “Down Home Ways” by Jerry Mack Johnson