Natural Dyeing

A few years ago I saw a natural dyeing demonstration of onion skins and turmeric by Greta Menzies. It was an amazing process. Since then I’ve followed a few people on Instagram but haven’t experimented with the process. My friend Teresa and I recently attended a demonstration by Bonnie De Gros aka The Rusty Skillet. 

Natural dyed fabrics and yarn.
This wool was dyed using marigolds (top left) onion skins (top right) and avocado pips and skins (bottom)

I learnt that natural fibres can only be used  for dyeing- cotton, silk, linen and wool are ideal.  These fibres need to be prepared prior the process is called mordanting.

With natural dyeing every part of the process can affect the end colour result. The type of pot used, the type of water, the amount of dye goods to fabric ratio and the place where the organic matter comes from.


You need a few dedicated tools for dyeing a metal pot with a lid, a wooden spoon, organic materials aka dye medium – the general rule is 50% dye medium to 50% water.

The basic method for natural dyeing is to heat the water to a gentle simmer, add the dye medium to infuse into the water. Leave the fabric in the water overnight with the lid on the fabric will soak up all the colour from the water.

An example of an indigo dye bloom.

I decided that natural dyeing isn’t a hobby for me. I decided this based on a few reasons.

– The colours aren’t permanent and the resulting fabrics require special washing and drying.

– Most of the colours produced from natural dyeing aren’t ones that suit me and the result cannot be predicted.

– I don’t have much space to dye fabric or store the dry goods.

Indigo dye is permanent and the fabric doesn’t need special preparation so this may be something I try in the future.

Indigo-dyed fabric – the pattern was created using Popsicle sticks.

I would love to know if you have tried natural dyeing what the results were like and if it’s something that interests you. Bonnie’s workshop was very inspiring. I recommend a course with her if this is a topic that interests you. 

Image credit: Bonnie De Gros

Check out the following links below for supplies and inspiration.


Wild Color- Jenny Dean

The Modern Natural Dyer – Kristine Vejar

Eco Colour – India Flint

Natural Colour – Sasha Dueer


Website and online resources:

Rebecca Desnos  e book – using soy milk mordant and plant based fibres

Maiwa Handprints guide to natural dyeing



Bunnings or a Hardware store for Alum (potassium aluminium sulfate)

Dharma Trading


A Verb for Keeping Warm


Instagram inspiration:







@Aboubakafofana (indigo dye master)


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Crystal says:

    You have the author wrong for the modern natural dyer. It’s Kristen vejar It’s a great resource!


    1. Thanks for letting me know!


  2. Krista says:

    I dyed a cotton tshirt with tumeric last year, just for fun. Literally just boiled it in a pot for several hours with water and tumeric. The colour came out a bright sunshine yellow, and faded significantly with each wash, but the curry smell remained 😀


    1. Oh sounds like a fun experiment! I wonder if there’s is a way to reduce the smell.


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