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Flower Power Alert | Here’s How To Dye Clothes Using Plants

With our recent collaboration with Sustain by Kat  , We’ve had a lot of community members asking us questions and we wanted to share with all of you how this all came to be!

Our full Collection can be seen here: https://www.kidential.com/collections/sustain/

Making art is a shortcut to a flow state, in which we feel less stressed and more focused, and it’s even been shown to boost self-esteem and life satisfaction. As the $44 billion craft industry grows, thanks in large part to millennials, it is expanding beyond old classics like knitting and coloring books into some more earthy explorations of the colors and forms you’ll find in nature. Every Friday for the next month, we’re all heading back to class and learning the basics of four of these meditative crafting techniques. Today, we’re learning how to use natural materials like plants and veggie scraps to color clothing in vibrant, funky hues.

While working on farms and studying herbalism I learned that fabric had traditionally been dyed using the same plants that I was growing and cultivating. When I dove into it further, I realized that compared to conventional dyes, which can be really harmful to water systems and loaded with chemicals, plant dyes are a healthier alternative and much better for the planet.

Kidential is proud to offer products that are 80% water base in our dyes but as our values are to be transparent and sustainable we wanted to take it one step further. When Sustain by Kat approached us it was a dream come true.

What plants can be used to dye fabric?

Two of my favorite dye materials are marigolds and onion skins, and they’re great for dyeing newbies. Marigolds are beautiful, easy to find, and really vibrant. Onion skins are also super easy to collect (especially when you eat a lot of stir fry like I do!), and since they are already dried, they’re a breeze to store. Fun fact: Onions have traditionally been considered a protective veggie, and leaving half of one on your counter is a way to absorb all the negative energy in your house.

You can get a lot of color out of these two materials, and since they’re so sturdy, you can use them over and over again. (Once they become translucent and mushy, it’s time to compost them, but I can usually reuse them at least three times!) They also create a really beautiful range of color depending on what you’re mixing them with.

I really love dyeing with buddleia flowers as they make a gorgeous golden sunshine yellow dye, which I think is amazing as it comes from bright purple flowers. I also like working with chlorophyll extract as it makes a gorgeous range of different greens, from mint green to a deep rich emerald green, depending on how concentrated the dye is. I find that as the days get colder and I’m going outside less that I turn to things that I can find in my house to make dyes with. Kitchen scraps like pomegranate skins, avocado stones and carrot tops really come into their own, producing yellow, pink and green colors.

WHAT ARE THE BEST FABRICS FOR PLANT DYEING?

Anything from Kidential, of course! Our white is actually just our raw cotton with no bleach used to it sucks up the dye very easily.

Natural dyes work best on natural fabrics so things like linen and cotton dye really well. Due to the natural protein in them, wool and silk normally give the best results with plant dyes, resulting in lovely vivid colors – though you do have to be a little more careful when dyeing them to make sure that the wool doesn’t felt or the silk doesn’t shrink.

My number one tip would be to remember that plant dyeing can be unpredictable, but that is half the fun. Every now and again I will make a batch of dye from a plant that I have used hundreds of times in the past and it comes out a completely different color to what it has previously. Occasionally I can figure out why it is such a different color but a lot of the time it remains a mystery.

Because of the unpredictability of plant dyeing it is a really great idea to keep a plant dyeing record book, where you can attach a swatch of your dyed fabric along with notes on how the color was made. That way, when you do get some unexpected surprises in your dye pot you can look back at your previous experiments and see if you can figure out the reason.

I get a lot of people sending me messages on Instagram because they have tried dyeing with plants and are feeling disappointed with the results. It was messages like these that first gave me the idea to write ebooks to teach people the basics of plant dyeing and to help them create beautiful colors.

The three main things for someone new to plant dyeing to know is that the fabric needs to be treated before it is dyed (I use soya milk), that the dyes should never, ever be allowed to boil (as this normally results in the dye turning a dull brown color) and that once they are dyed, fabrics should be washed at a low temperature using a gentle, environmentally friendly laundry detergent.

Some great plants to start with are bay leaves, avocado stones, pomegranate skins, stinging nettles, rosemary and dried turmeric or saffron, as all of these are fairly easy to extract the color from and produce pretty much consistent results.