Easy hints to making homemade dyes

The first step in making your own dyes is to gather the raw materials — your dyestuffs.  This can include flowers, bark, nuts and berries.   Here are some hints to help get you started.

Easy hints to making homemade dyes

Do your research

Do a search for a guide to common, naturally occurring sources of dyes and to the various colours they will produce. Consult a good botanical guide that illustrates leaves, flowers, bark, buds and other distinctive characteristics.

Timing is everything

You not only need to collect the right plants, you also need to collect them at the right times.

  • Flowers should be picked just after they reach full bloom.
  • Roots, bark and branches should be from mature plants; do not pick new branches.
  • Nuts should be fully ripe and even a little aged (but should not have lain on the ground through the winter).
  • Berries make the best dyes when picked fully ripe.

Flowers make great yellows for dyes.

Marigolds and dahlias are two of the several kinds of flowers that give bright, long-lasting dyes. Most flower heads will produce some shade of yellow no matter what colour their petals.

Dyestuffs can be saved for later

Although fresh dyestuffs produce the strongest dyes, most plants, except berries, can also be stored for later use.

  • Twigs, leaves, nuts, blossoms, bark and roots can be dried. Spread them in a single layer in a shady, well-ventilated spot, turning them occasionally for faster drying. An old insect screen or a fridge shelf makes a good drying rack because it lets air circulate underneath as well as on top.
  • Plants with stems may be hung up in bundles to dry. Once the drying is complete, store the dyestuffs in brown paper bags or other containers through which air can circulate freely.
  • Berries should not be dried but can be kept for several months if frozen. Freeze them unwashed, either whole or pulverized into juice.

There are many things that can go into making a good homemade dye. Timing when to collect them and how to get the most from them will give you the best chance at making quality dyes.

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