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DIY Natural Dyes

DIY Style Oct 12, 2011

I’ve been a fan of Free People for ages, mainly because of their perfectly bohemian aesthetic and super cool warehouse headquarters (thanks instagram for reminding me daily of where I DON’T work). I always tune in for their WednesDIY on the Free People blog, so when they asked me recently if I wanted to guest post for today’s DIY I couldn’t say no – check out the DIY Fishtail Skirt I made for them.
We also thought it would be lovely to feature one of their DIYs here.  Free People blogger Julia (um, best job ever?) did this amazing natural dyes project which I knew you would love. 

I have always wanted to experiment with natural dyes and on a gloomy day in September I decided that it was time. This is such a fun, environmentally friendly project that takes a little bit of time, but very little cash.

There are a number of plants that can be used to make natural dyes, but for my first go-round I chose to use fruits and vegetables that I picked up at a local market.


What I got: red cabbage, lemons, oranges, beets, yellow onions, blackberries, blueberries, spinach.

*It’s important to remember when working with natural dyes that experimentation is key – depending on the amount of ingredients you use and how long you leave a garment in the dye, the color you get can vary.

For pinkish/red dyes:
Beets and blueberries can make a really lovely dusty rose color.


For bluish/purple dyes:
Blackberries and red cabbage can be used to make bluish/purple dyes.  
  
For copper/orange dyes:
I never realized what a beautiful color yellow onions can have! Their skins can make an alluring mustard yellow, coppery color.


For yellow dyes:
Orange and lemon peels can be used to make a soft pale yellow dye. 


For green dyes:
Finally, spinach can be used to make a beautiful shade of green. 
 

Now what?
To make the dye, chop up your ingredients and put them in a pot with twice as much water as ingredients.  Bring the water to a boil and let simmer for an hour.  For deeper colors, you can leave the ingredients in the water (without heat) overnight.
Remove the hard materials from the mixture with a strainer, leaving you with the liquid dye.


The beets were such a beautiful deep red color! I chopped them up and added water and when I started boiling the water turned red almost immediately.

  
For the onions, I peeled off the skins and used only that part – I have seen other examples of this online that yielded really nice results but I was actually doubtful that this would really work.  Turns out I was pleasantly surprised!

I had high hopes for the spinach… if anyone has tried this with spinach and gotten good results let me know what your secret is 🙂

After bringing each ingredient to a boil, I let them simmer for an hour while I prepared the fabrics to dye.

Before dying, you will also need to create a fixative, which will help your fabric hold the dye.
When working with berries, use a salt fixative – put 1/2 cup of salt in 8 cups of water, put the fabric in and simmer for one hour.
When working with vegetables, use a vinegar fixative – mix one part vinegar and four parts water, add your fabric and simmer for one hour.
When you remove the fabric, rinse in cold water.
The fabric is now ready to dye! 

I put the fabric in the dye and let it sit for a little while – the longer you let it sit, the deeper your shade of color will be. I removed the fabric when I felt like it had reached a nice shade of reddish pink – such a pretty color:
  
I was happiest with the color I got from the onion skins – a beautiful amber that worked so well on the fabric.

  
Wouldn’t it be cool to make friendship bracelets using naturally-dyed string?!


By the next day, the fabric dyed with the beets faded into more of a light pink color, but it was still really pretty! I think next time, though, I would leave the fabric in the dye for longer.  The fabric dyed with onion skins actually held out really well, and I LOVE the color it created. I loved it so much, I tried it out on one of my Free People bras 🙂


Make sure you have a look around the Free People blog – they have loads of amazing DIYs.
Tags Free People Natural Tie Dye
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