Sis & I are into the second semester of our “Farm to Table” program we have with our neighborhood school and we are enjoying every minute of it.  Not only are we having fun teaching the kids, but we are learning along with them as we put together lesson plans for each session.

Keeping with the “farm to” theme, one of the sessions we are having the kids dye some yarn and fabric with a vegetable.  Probably beets (since we have a bunch)   Of course, I wanted to do a bit of experimenting myself and during the session wanted showcase dyeing with vegetables, fruits, coffee, and even spices using simple fixative of mordant of salt or vinegar.

So a quick search on the internet for the “how to.” The process was fairly easy – but messy!   I used blackberries, onion skins, coffee, turmeric, beets and spinach and was happy with all the results except for the spinach.   I was expecting a light green but instead was rather dirty white (blech)

When you think about this, this was how people dyed their clothing/fabric for thousands of years.  It was only “recently” in 1856 with cheap manufacturing that  synthetic  dyes started to be used.   Not are these chemical dyes posing a environmental risk but to the factory works and also a health risk since our skin absorbs.

As I was dyeing I felt I was stepping back in time, a few hundred years or so- perhaps in little cottage surrounded by a large dye garden, big black kettles boiling away, stirring the dye batches with a big long stick, surrounded by freshly dyed fabric waving in the breeze.

But, alas, my cell phone goes off…… back to the present!

:: Resources ::

 Make Natural Dyes With Leftover Fruits and Vegetables

Dye Your Clothes with Food

How to Dye Using Fruits & Vegetables





  1. Nebraska Dave says:

    Anais, not sure I want to go that far back in time. I never got into the dyeing of clothes during the tie dye era. It is amazing how our ancestors accomplished things that some times were better than today’s methods. We have gotten so far away from the past that we have forgotten how to do those things and even don’t really want to do those things. They were messy, time consuming, heat up the kitchen things. I applaud those that take the time to investigate the ways that worked without the chemicals of today methods. I’m afraid that I’m not one of those that have an interest in researching the old ways of clothing. Denim jeans, flannel shirts, and muck boots are my attire for most days.

    It must be great satisfaction to show the kids of today in the schools how folks lived and accomplished things many generations ago.

    Have a great dyeing day at school.

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