How to Dye Clothes At Home For Reuse With Natural Dyes

by Bhagya L

Everyone says – stop using fast fashion.

But what’s an alternative?

What brands are sustainable and offer value at affordable prices?

Well, the fact remains that we are yet to have a surplus of affordable slow fashion. While there are many brands making an effort in the right direction, including fast fashion brands that have started eco-friendly lines, full blown slow fashion is almost always highly priced for daily wear outfits.

This is why one of the best ways to practice sustainability in fashion is to buy second hand fashion or recycle and reuse clothes.

A good majority of natural fabrics like cotton, linen etc. can be dyed and repurposed in different ways. For example, cushion and pillow covers can be made from old cotton shirts, skirts etc.

No, you don’t have to go looking for expensive chemical based fabric dyes to re-color your outfits. You can simply use vegetables and plant material to give your clothes a new life.

Below are the steps to produce dye at home and color your clothes.

Things you can color

Natural dye sustainable fashion

Before we begin, here are some common fabrics that you can use for the best outcome.

  • Natural fabrics like linen, cotton or hemp
  • Light colored, white or unprocessed fabrics with no color – like muslin
  • Old plain T shirts
  • Towels
  • Paper based objects

Things you’ll need

Natural dye sustainable fashion

First off you’ll need natural dyes. And to create natural dyes in different colors, here’s a little quick cheat sheet

  • Orange – carrots, onion skin, gold lichen
  • Blue – Indigo, purple grapes, red cabbage
  • Green – Spinach, peppermint, plantain
  • Yellow – Turmeric, Marigold, Sunflower petals
  • Red/Brown – Beets, pomegranate, Hibiscus flower
  • Pink – Roses
  • Brown – coffee

Remember to use only fresh and ripe plant products to get the most pigment.

Now for the fixative that will make the color set in the fabric you’ll need

  • Salt
  • Vinegar

For equipment

  • A cutting board and knife to chop the plant material
  • Non-reactive pots to place and soak your fabrics in, like stainless steel
  • Gloves so you don’t get your hands dirty
  • Rubber bands for some creativity

The process

Natural dye sustainable fashion

Now here’s what you need to do.

First you need to prepare your fabric with the fixative so that it absorbs the color from the dye and sets. For that:

  • Wash your fabric with water – don’t let it dry, keep it wet
  • Prepare your fixative. Now if you are using berry or fruit based plant material you can use salt as your mordant. If you are using other types of plant material like leaves, you can use Vinegar.
    Add salt to water in approximately 0.5/8 ratio.
    For vinegar, you can use a ¼ ratio with cold water.
  • Once you’ve prepared the fixative solution, soak the washed fabric in the solution for about an hour.
  • Later rinse with cold water

Now we’re going to start the dyeing process.

  • To prepare the dye, place any plant material depending on the color you wish to create on a non-reactive pot.
  • Add about twice as much water as the plant material
  • Simmer for about an hour, which will ideally leave a dark colored solution, sufficient enough to dye the fabric
  • Now take out the plant material and place the fabric you wish to dye carefully, while simmering.
  • Slowly bring the solution to a boil, stir once in a while as needed
  • After an hour, you can turn off the heat and let it sit in the pot for as long as it needs. If you need a darker shade, you can leave the fabric for longer, perhaps overnight. The color will be lighter once the fabric dries. Keeping that in mind, you can decide when to take out the fabric.
  • Once you feel you’ve achieved the color you want, you can take the fabric out and wash in cold water, which will inevitably cause some color to run. Don’t worry about that as it is only the excess dye
  • Dry your fabric

Natural dye sustainable fashion

That is pretty much it to dyeing at home.

Now if you are up for it you can take things up a notch with rubber bands. Tie up your fabric in different ways using rubber bands, and using a spray bottle squirt the prepared dye from different directions to get a nice tie dye effect.

Have a nice DIY day!

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