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.

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