Top 10 Natural Dyeing Tips

Hi Creative Mamas! I am super excited to share with you my top 10 natural dyeing tips. After many years of trial and error I know what to avoid, what works and what saves time when it comes to getting great color from natural dyes.

I have developed a natural dyeing process that is fool proof and gets great results.

The image below illustrates the 8 steps that you must always follow in order to get good results when dyeing with natural dyes.

natural dyeing process

How to dye fabric and yarn with natural dyes

In this article I will spill my best 10 natural dyeing tips that have helped me and my students get bright colors every time.

I feel that working with natural dyes is a beautiful thing, but it can also be frustrating if you are not getting the desired results.

So, to avoid frustration and confusion, follow these tips and you will be on your way to achieving bright and stunning colors time after time!

Top 10 Natural Dyeing Tips

Tip #1: Know the difference between cellulose fibers and protein fibers

Natural dyes will adhere to natural fibers such as protein fibers and cellulose fibers. However, these are very different and different mordant processes are required depending on the type of fiber.

If you are dyeing wool or silk which are protein fibers you will need to mordant with Alluminium Sulphate but if you are dyeing linen or cotton you will be mordanting with Alluminium Acetate.

Fiber classification is the first step (and a very important one) in the 8 Steps Natural Dyeing Process.

Tip #2: Use stainless Steel Pots

Always use stainless steel pots for all natural dyeing. This will ensure that the dye will not be affected by other metals. If you use an iron or a copper pot it will affect the color since the metals will act as mordants/modifiers.

You can choose to experiment with copper or iron pots when you are an experienced dyer. For the most part I prefer to get the true dye color and experiment with modifiers as an after process as explained in the FREE Natural Dyeing Guide.

Tip #3: Prevent felting wool

You must be careful when handling wool in general because wool felts very easily. This tip applies to all wool (yarn, roving and fabric).

To prevent felting don’t let wool fibers boil and don’t shock them by shifting them from cold water into hot water or vice versa. Always handle wool with care and avoid friction as well.

When placing wool in your dye bath simply submerge the wool skein and bring the temperature up slowly. Leave the wool in the dye bath at a constant temperature below simmering for 1 hour.

Tip #4: Use mordants for best results

Always pre mordant your fibers. Mordants play an important role within the whole process in Natural dyeing. There are different types of mordants and they will all provide you with different results.

Mordants are water soluble metallic salts which creates a bond between the dye and the fiber. 

Different types of mordants:

  • Alum
  • Copper
  • Tin
  • Iron
  • Chrome
  • Plant mordants (Walnut, sumac, oak and black tea)

Tip #5: Use water as color white

Water will act as color white. So, if you add more water to your dye bath you will get a lighter shade. This is very useful because you can always start with a higher dye concentration and dilute the color as needed.

Tip #6: Colors will dry lighter

Always bare in mind that the colors will dry a few shades lighter. As a general rule follow these guidelines:

  • Wool dries 1 shade lighter
  • silk dries 2 shades lighter
  • Cotton dries 3 shades lighter

Tip #7: PH in water

The type of water will have a big impact in the final result. The PH in the water as well as the minerals and metals will affect the color as well as the texture.

It’s always a good idea to collect some rain water and use it in the dye bath.

Tip #8: Use iron with caution

I love using iron water as a modifier in natural dyeing but you must be very careful not to over expose the fibers to it. Iron can damage the fiber. It has the potential to make the fibers brittle and to reduce it’s luster.

So use iron as a modifier with care and as a mordant with extra care 🙂

Tip #9: Soak dyes overnight

This is my pro tip. When preparing your natural dyes for color extraction make sure that you soak them overnight. Depending on which dye you are using you may also need to grind it. I find that by soaking the dye I am able to extract richer and stronger color.

Tip #10: Keep notes and record results

This is a very important step and one that is generally ignored. Unless you are simply experimenting for the fun of it you will want to take notes of the recipes that you are using. I keep a detailed journal with notes of my experimentations so that I can replicate the same results every time.

Here are some of the pages in one of my natural dyeing scrapbooks 🙂 As toy can see they are a bit messy but I know exactly the proportions of dyes/mordants/modifiers that I have used etc.

natural dyeing scrapbook with experimentations of cochineal, madder and eucalyptus dyes

natural dyeing scrapbook with experimentations of cochineal, madder and eucalyptus dyes

Check out The Ultimate list of 40 plus natural dyes that will deliver awesome results as longa s you follow the correct process.

Download your FREE Natural Dyeing Guide.

EASY 8 steps process to create bright colors from natural dyes that will last forever (even if you have never done it before)

I hope these tips have been useful to you and please reach out with any doubts or questions that you may have!

Leave a Comment