All Natural Tie-Dye DIY

Posted In: Arts & Crafts

All Natural Tie-Dye DIY

You are in for a real treat today! Randi from Swoon is sharing some great recipes and techniques for making lovely natural tie-dye creations…

Over the past year I have completely fallen in love with the process of making and using natural dyes! Did you know you can make dye solutions from many things in your house and yard? Berries, vegetables, spices, flowers, and plants can all be used to make the most beautiful hues, using just a few simple steps. The muted colors made by Mother Nature herself are so pretty and the process is really fun for kids (and adults too!).

We recently combined our knowledge of natural dyes with the age old technique of tie-dyeing and wanted to share it with you too. This activity is perfect for a summer afternoon spent at home.  The best part about using natural dye is the lack of harsh chemicals/odors, so you can even plan to do this inside on a rainy day!

All Natural Tie-Dye DIY All Natural Tie-Dye DIYAll Natural Tie-Dye DIYAll Natural Tie-Dye DIY

Materials: White cotton fabric for dyeing, rubber bands, gloves, vinegar or salt (to be used as a fixative), water, various pots and pans, stove, containers for dyeing, small strainer, and raw materials to make dyes. We used turmeric powder for yellow, red onion skins for pink, and red cabbage leaves for purple. Click here to see a list of possible fruits, veggies and flowers to use. There is a lot of information on the web, so grab your kids and do a search and decide together what you would like to use!

Step One: Prepare your fabric for dyeing. Use rubber bands to create a pattern on your fabric (for more information on this go here). Once you’re satisfied with your design, it’s time to treat your fabric with a fixative. If you are making a berry-based dye, mix 1/2 cup of salt with 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer your fabric in this solution for one hour prior to dyeing. If you are making a plant/veggie based dye, mix 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water and follow the same process. When done simmering, run under cool water and wring out a bit of the excess water.

Step Two: Make your dye. Wearing gloves, cut or tear your raw ingredients into small pieces and measure. Throw it in a pot and pour in water (2 parts water to 1 part raw ingredients. For example: one cup of torn cabbage leaves to two cups of water). If you are using a spice, such as turmeric, the proportions will be 1-2 Tbs. of spice to 3-4 cups of water. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer for about an hour. The longer you simmer, the more intense your color will become. When done simmering, strain dye into a container or jar big enough to fit your garment or fabric. You will feel a bit like a mad scientist at this point, but just go with it!

Step Three: Dye your fabric. Wearing gloves, place your fabric into dye containers and allow them to sit for a while. We didn’t play around with using multiple colors on one garment, but you could experiment with placing dye in a bottle with an applicator and squirting directly on the fabric as many people do when tie-dyeing. Once your fabric has reached the desired hue (remember, color will lighten a little as your fabric dries), pull it out of the dye and rinse with cool water separately until it runs clear. Remove rubber bands and hang to dry.

All Natural Tie-Dye DIYAll Natural Tie-Dye DIYAll Natural Tie-Dye DIY



Randi Edwards is a regular contributor to Playful Learning, who specializes in crafts for kids. She also manages our wonderful contributors and helps to make this a beautiful place with a little design magic. She puts her passion for daydreaming to work over at her blog, Swoon where she shares ideas, original projects, and favorite things. She loves to laugh and considers herself a lifelong student. She lives in Seattle with her husband and three young children, and strives to make her home a beautiful, playful, and accessible place to grow up.



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  1. Hello and many thanks for this great all-natural instruction 🙂
    There is one question left for me:
    Which fixative recipe do I have to use when dyeing with spices/turmeric?

    Again many thanks,
    Warm whishes,
    Claudia (from Germany)

    1. Sam, of the dyes we chose, the yellow (turmeric) stayed the most vibrant after washing. The purple (cabbage leaves) didn’t take as well, so has faded quite a bit over time. I believe there are multiple natural materials you can use for each color, so doing some research and a little experimenting to see what produces the most vibrant colors might be in order!

  2. Great post! We have been wanting to create our own tie dye fabrics, but there is no sense in using the chemical/non-vegan kits out there. This is a very simple solution with high-quality photos and detailed instructions. Thank you so much! Peace ☮

    1. I tried this for the first time last week and used fresh turnmeric root. I have some questions. I could not get rid of a very intense turmeric fragrance through rinsing alone. So I washed the cotton vest so vigorously several times with detergent that I began to lose a little of the color’s depth. The turmeric fragrance is nearly gone and now less likely to draw excessive attention in public. What would have been a better way of dealing with this please?
      Outside my question, please have a look at my post and your suggestions are welcome.

  3. This looks awesome! I would love to do it with my campers, but was wondering if you need to use the dye immediately after it is done simmering and still hot. Could I make the dye ahead of time to bring to camp to use there?

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