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DIY: Natural Dyes For Tie-Dying This Summer

Natural dye made from berries and a tie dyed shirt

If you’re planning on tie-dying with your kids this summer, but worried about using harsh chemicals, we’ve got the perfect solution for you: use natural dyes. And the best news? You don’t have to run off to any hippie grocery stores to find some. Chances are, you’ll have a couple in your own backyard (or your refrigerator) to put to use! Plus, all it takes to make is a pot, a stove, and whichever ingredient you want to create a dye out of and you’re all set! See how to make your own natural dye:

1.Choose your natural ingredients

You have a wealth of options here! From blueberries to beets to onions to turmeric, there are plenty of easy-to-obtain fruits, veggies, and spices with which to create a natural dye. For our shirt, we chose a berry mix, which gave us a really nice blend of dark pinks and light reds. Other options not listed above: cabbage, spinach, orange peels, carrots, coffee, pomegranates, paprika… You get the gist :)

2. Soak your fabrics in a mixture to ensure it retains color longer. If you’re using fruit to dye your fabric, simmer it in 1/4 cup salt and 4 cups water for one hour. For vegetable and spice dyes, simmer it in 1 cup vinegar and 4 cups water for one hour. Rinse the fabric in cold water and now you’re ready to dye them!

A bowl of fruit juice dye and a tied up shirt

3. To prepare the dye, place the ingredients that you’re using in a pot of water. Use enough water so that the plants or fruits are completely submerged. Boil for an hour or so. (Pro tip - if you’re pressed for time, you can also place a ceramic bowl filled with your ingredient of choice and water. Microwave for 1 minute at a time checking the mixture in between rounds to see if it’s reached the color of your choice.)

Strain the mixtures into bowls or mason jars and let cool. You should have strained out all of the fibrous material so that only liquid remains in the bowls or mason jars.

5. There are two ways to dye fabric. You can either tie the fabric up in a traditional tie-dye fashion and dip in the bowls OR you can put the liquid dyes back into a pot and boil it for another hour, placing the fabric in the pot for the second hour. If you boil the fabric, the colors are more likely to last longer, but dipping the fabric in bowls is fine if you’re just tie-dying as a fun activity.

Finished tie-dyed shirt

6. Rinse off the fabric in cold water and dry as usual.

7. Ta-da! You have naturally dyed fabric! Doesn’t it feel great?