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Life & Style

Arts & Crafts, Life & Style

How to Dye Fabrics Using Natural Materials

How to Dye Fabrics Using Natural Materials

Today I have a great tutorial on how to dye fabrics using natural ingredients from Juliet Bawden, a designer, maker, author, and journalist, who blogs at the website Creative Colour.

Juliet will show you how to dye your fabric, and then, as a bonus, she will show you how to use the finished result to make reusable gift wrap.


With summer on the cusp of autumn, berries are plentiful at the moment, so it is a great time to use those that aren’t perfect enough to eat, or surplus to your requirements, to make a natural dye. Today I will show you just how to dye fabrics using natural materials – it’s easier than you may think.

The best fabrics to dye using fruit and vegetables are natural ones such as cotton, silk, and linen. This is a great way to reuse old cotton sheets or pillowcases that have seen better days.

Before naturally dyeing your fabric, you will need to wash it to get rid of any finishes in it, and any dust or dirt. You will also need a mordant to help the cloth take up the dye, otherwise, your natural dye may not work. Mordant sounds like a specialist ingredient, but don’t worry, you probably already have some mordant in your kitchen cupboard – table salt is a commonly used mordant.

How To Dye Fabrics Using Natural Materials

You Will Need

Fabric to dye
Scissors
25cm Muslin
Berries (I used mulberries but blackberries are just as good)
Salt (the proportions are ½ cup of salt to 8 cups of water)
Large wooden spoon
Gloves (Optional but Mulberries stain)

Instructions for dyeing

  • Wash your fabric and leave it damp.
  • Add the salt to a large pan of water and place the washed cloth in it.
  • Bring the pan to the boil and then leave it to stand for an hour.
  • Put your berries in the muslin and tie it up, so the berries can’t get out, and add it to the pan.
How to Dye Fabrics Using Natural Materials
  • Bring to the boil again and, simmer for an hour, pushing the muslin with a large spoon to help release the juices. Keep stirring to get an even colour distribution on the cloth.
  • Turn off the heat and leave the fabric in the dye bath. The longer you leave it the stronger the colour. I often leave mine overnight for more vibrant colours.
  • Remove the naturally dyed fabric from the dye bath. It will look much darker and often a different colour whilst it is wet.
How to Dye Fabrics Using Natural Materials
  • Hang it up to dry and you are done!

How To Wrap Gifts Using Fabric

how to wrap gifts using fabric

The Japanese term for wrapping gifts in fabric is Furoshiki. It’s a great sustainable alternative to wrapping paper, as the recipient can re-use the fabric or give it back to you for wrapping future gifts.

To wrap your gift in your naturally dyed fabric, once the fabric is dry, iron it. The follow the steps outlined below:

  1. Lay the fabric flat, with a corner pointing towards you, and place your box in the middle.
  2. Fold the corner closest to you over the box.
  3. Fold the corner opposite you over the box and fold the edge to make it neat.
  4. Tuck and gather the remaining material on each end and, with one end in each hand, bring them over the top of the box and tie.
  5. Make a neat bow on top of the box.

Thank you Juliet for this handy guide on how to dye fabrics using natural materials.

All images by Mimi Chambre for Juliet Bawden.

Health & Beauty, Life & Style

Six Soaps Leading the Clean Revolution

best ethical soaps

This post contains affiliate links

Today I have a post from Ethical Consumer magazine on the best ethical soaps to look out for at a time when washing your hands is more important than ever.


Who would have thought this time last year that soap would be making the headlines?  

Strange days indeed and as we lather up a little more often, it’s never been more important to choose our soap wisely. Palm oil, toxic chemicals and plastics can all creep into our soap but there are some great brands out there keeping it clean. 

Jane Turner from Ethical Consumer Magazine reveals some of the best brands out there beating the bugs with good ingredients, minimal packaging, and ethical practices. 

Breaking It Down

The humble bar or splash of liquid soap is our most important weapon in fighting COVID-19. Using science that is thousands of years old, soap works by destroying the outer membranes of the virus, killing it and stopping it from spreading. Nothing else is more effective in this fight. But although soap has natural origins, some of the soaps available today are far from natural. 

Soap doesn’t need complex synthetic chemicals, plastics or exotic ingredients grown on deforested land. Here are the nasties to look out for in your soap and the brands that are leading a clean revolution. 

Ethical Consumer Recommends…

Following an intensive investigation into over 50 soap brands that are included in our ethical shopping guide to soap, we recommend the following six brands as our Best Buys. 

Lucy Bee

Lucy Bee is a business founded on the humble coconut, providing everything from milk to sugar, skincare, and soap. Lucy Bee soaps are organic, vegan, and Fairtrade and contain no palm oil or palm oil-derived ingredients or nasties, such as parabens, phthalates, or triclosan.

The whole range carries the Leaping Bunny mark and no ingredients are tested on animals. The soap bars come in generous 150g chunks in paper packaging with four delicious scents to choose from. 

Odylique

Skincare brand Odylique uses virgin olive oil to create plant glycerine as the basis of its organic, vegan, castile soap bars. Although the bars do have palm oil-derived ingredients, these are present in small quantities and are from RPSO-assured sources. Ingredients are locally sourced wherever possible and Fairtrade when sourced further afield. The bars are free from synthetic chemicals and come wrapped in non-toxic recyclable packaging. 

Friendly Soap

Friendly Soap certainly knows how to bring the fun to handwashing. Not only can you find a wide variety of bright, scented soap bars on its website, but also a range of travel soaps, shave, shampoo, and conditioner bars. Friendly Soap uses an ancient cold-press method, pouring, cutting, and stamping the soaps by hand and maintaining a small carbon footprint. 

The ingredients are biodegradable so there’s no waste; poppy seeds and hemp take the place of microplastics to gently exfoliate the skin. None of the products or ingredients are tested on animals. The soaps are Vegan certified, contain no palm oil and the shea butter is sourced from a women’s cooperative in Ghana. 

Bio-D

Bio-D supplies a wide variety of household and personal care products and the brand is sold on the high street, as well as in various independent health food and whole food stores. Vegan and cruelty-free, Bio-D soap bars and liquids contain no plastics. Although some products contain palm oil derivatives, Bio-D is actively reducing its use and uses only RSPO-accredited supplies. The liquid soap is sold in bulk online at just £18.99 for 5 litres, and is also widely available through refillable liquid soap stations. 

Caurnie 

Caurnie Soap uses organic herbs and essential oils to produce its rustic, handmade soaps. The bars and liquid soaps are chemical-free, containing only pure vegan ingredients and no palm oil or derivatives. Many of the ingredients are sourced locally. 

ALTER/NATIVE

ALTER/NATIVE is the own-brand soap line from wholefood collective Suma. Choose from a huge variety of vegan, cruelty-free bars and liquids and access refillable soap stations in health food stores.

Suma is a vegetarian company and uses only RPSO-accredited palm oil in its products. You won’t find any plastics in these soaps and all packaging is 100% recycled and recyclable, although we strongly advise the refillable route with the hand wash option. 

For more on these companies and to see the full list of brand researched visit Ethical Consumer’s guide to soap.

Make Soap a Hobby

If you’re looking for a new hobby, why not make your own soap bars? Take a base recipe, and then once you’ve mastered that you can experiment with different natural fragrances, and drop bars off as gifts for your friends and family.

What Else to Look Out For

If these brands aren’t easily available to you there are some top tips of things you can look for in some of the more widely available brands.

Plastics

Microplastics have been banned in soap in the UK since 2018 but companies can still use non-degradable liquid plastic polymers and petroleum-based chemicals. And of course, plastic packaging is a clear problem, especially when it comes to liquid handwash and non-recyclable pumps. 

We recommend bars of soap over liquid handwash. Bars work just as well and come in a fraction of the packaging (mostly paper) and some with none at all.

Animal Products

Although plant-based ingredients are just as effective as animal-derived products, some manufacturers continue to use substances like sodium tallowate and stearic acid, while glycerine may also be animal-derived. The good news is that there are loads of vegan brands out there, many from purely vegan companies.

Look out for the Leaping Bunny label endorsing cruelty-free soaps. Some brands carry this label across their entire product range, showing a strong commitment to avoid any ingredient that has been tested on animals. 

Palm Oil 

Although many companies source palm oil sustainably and are members of groups such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), these accreditations have been criticised for not doing enough to break links with deforestation. 

Whether to buy or boycott palm oil remains a controversial subject and you can find out more about the issues in our palm oil section. Palm oil-derived ingredients are trickier to identify but there are companies out there who use neither. See our palm oil free soap page for more.

Fairtrade

Many ethical brands choose locally sourced ingredients to cut their carbon footprint. For those who use ingredients such as coconut, cocoa or soy, look for the Fairtrade logo to be sure that the farmers are getting a fair price for their crops. 

You can find out more about all the companies and issues in our guide to soap on our website, where you can also find over 130 other ethical shopping guides covering everything from bread to banks.