This site is an archive of For the latest information about Susy and her adventrures, visit the Cultivate Simple site.
Thank you for all your support over the years!

A Garden to Dye For

May 19th, 2014

As a kid I was fascinated with the colors of berries and things in the garden. We often took poke weed berries, smashed them and made ink to write on stones with. Being a crafty kid, learning how to dye fabric, yarn and other things with plants would have been so much fun. A few times I dyed items with regular dyes and a few times I used tea and coffee.
Screen Shot 2014-05-17 at 10.27.13 AM
“You may have already guessed that there are some great perks that come with obtaining dyes from your own plants: they’re non-toxic, biodegradable (compost anyone?) and absolutely renewable.

Using botanical dyes isn’t even remotely close to being a new concept. People from all over the world have been borrowing nature’s colors for thousands of years, using plant- based dyes to adorn clothing, baskets, cave walls, and skin. It’s the ultimate in awesome to realize that when we derive color from the plants in our gardens or landscapes, we’re communing creatively with our ancient ancestors and civilizations.” (excerpt from pages 4 & 5).
signet_starfire_marigold 1
The most fascinating part of this book for me was reading about the studies being done on naturally dyed fabrics and clothing to see if we absorbed any of the medicinal/healthful properties from the herbs through our skin.  Super fascinating and something that has been believed throughout history by many cultures.  It does make sense with the advent of transdermal patches for medication and other things.  What we put on our skin is absorbed, it makes sense that herbal qualities from naturally dyed fabrics would also offer some benefits.
This book includes everything you need, from setting up your craft station to choosing the right plants for the color you want to achieve. Chris geared this book for the gardener and the beginner when it comes to dying so you can learn the basics and then be able to move forward with your own creativity.  I must admit, reading through the lists of flowers and other natural materials and seeing the colors achieved with them makes me want to buy some muslin or yarn and get to work experimenting.
When looking at all the colors achieved from various plants, seeds and other natural material many of them made complete sense. Of course pokeweed was in there, the one I used all the time as a kid. Then I came on the section about using avocado seeds and skins (hey I have a bunch of those) and I was amazed! If you use the skins and seeds you’ll get a salmon or pink for your final color, not at all what I was expecting!
avocados 1
It’s not just about dying fiber and fabric either, she tells you how to dye Easter eggs and play dough as well as direction for how to make your own watercolor dye paints. I must admit, making my own watercolors sound like a lot of fun, perhaps I can do it with my nieces when we’re back in Ohio later this year.
Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 8.26.05 PM
She’s doing a great giveaway on her site that includes everything you need to get started including a few silk scarves and wool yarn, head on over and enter if you’re interested.

This book definitely piqued my crafty side and now I can’t wait to try some of the ideas from this book, not sure what I’ll do first, maybe some yarn so I can make a scarf this winter.

Have you ever dyed things with items from you garden? What would you try to make first?

8 Comments to “A Garden to Dye For”
  1. Adelina on May 19, 2014 at 6:18 am

    We dye our easter eggs with onion skins, blueberries that we picked in the summer and froze, red cabbage left overs from making sauerkraut. And I have unintentionally dyed my clothing when cookies jams.

    Right now I have 8 oz of BFL and silk ready to be dyed and spun. This book looks like it could be very helpful. I am going to check it out. Thanks!

    Reply to Adelina's comment

  2. Laura @ Raise Your Garden on May 19, 2014 at 7:02 am

    Hmmmm, It’s never occurred to me that I could make my own dye for things like play dough. Sometimes, my kiddos go through so much.

    I think it would be awesome to make my own makeup from my garden, eyeshadow or something, not sure if that’s even possible.

    Reply to Laura @ Raise Your Garden's comment

  3. kaela on May 19, 2014 at 9:00 am

    My husband’s aunt is a weaver and a prodigious knitter who also spins her own yarn from local Maine sheep wool and dyes it all from wild plants or her garden. Her yarns are glorious: I’m always amazed at the depth and variety of the colors.

    Reply to kaela's comment

  4. judym on May 19, 2014 at 9:35 am

    I’ve dyed lace and old stained doilies with tea. Onion skins are great too. The book sounds like something I could really use. Been wanting to dye some fabric but didn’t want to use the chemical stuff. What do you do with the “leftovers” when you’re finished? Thanks for the recommendation!

    Reply to judym's comment

  5. Nebraska Dave on May 19, 2014 at 10:03 am

    Susy, ha, I had to laugh about this one. The only dying I do is from the grass stains and coffee dribbles on my clothes. Spaghetti sauce is another wonderful shirt coloring liquid. Barbecue sauce has a magnificent color on both shirt and pants. Oh yes and lets not forget mustard and catsup. They have a unique color especially when mixed together. I just can’t wait to get this day started and get some garden color dying done. :-)

    Have a great garden cloth coloring day.

    Reply to Nebraska Dave's comment

  6. Sara on May 19, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Ooh thanks, very cool book which is now on my hold list at the library ;)

    Reply to Sara's comment

  7. Margie on May 19, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    I would love to see your eggs dyed next spring. I have seen such beautiful shots of naturally dyed eggs in magazines, but always wonder what happens in the real world.

    Reply to Margie's comment

  8. Natasha on May 19, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    I used blueberries mixed with a bit of baking soda to make a blueish frosting for the cake when my son turned one last year. I’ve used beets as well. I never thought to use that to color the doughs I make for the kids to play with. I will try it!

    Reply to Natasha's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

Read previous post:
Quote of the Day: Gene Logsdon

"We have become a nation dangerously dependent on politically motivated and money-motivated processes for our food, clothing, and shelter. In...