Tie-Dyeing with Vegetable Dye

Have you ever tried colouring fabric with natural dye? Inspired by the colourful veggies recently harvested from our allotment we gave it a try. The results were beautiful & the whole process was far easier than I initially thought.

We've had a good crop of veggies from the garden this year & I'm always struck by their vivid colours, especially the beetroots & red cabbage. The other week we had a couple of beetroots that were past their best so we thought we'd use them to create some dye. Alongside the beetroot we used half a red cabbage, & the golden skins from 3 large onions. Now this may not sound like the most delicious selection, but the colours they produce are amazing.

To make the vegetable dye we used 3 saucepans (1 for each vegetable) & some cold water.
That's it, it really was so simple. 

We added our roughly chopped vegetables to the pans & then covered with water. For every cup of veg you'll need to add double the amount of cold water. Bring the pan to the boil, then simmer for an hour or so. Allow the liquid to cool slightly, then strain your dye into a container using a sieve or muslin.

And that's it, you've made your own natural dye!

Before dyeing any fabric you'll need to prepare it with a colour fixative first. This again is super simple!

To fix the vegetable dyes you'll need to make a colour fixative using 4 parts cold water & 1 part vinegar. 

Add the water & vinegar to a saucepan along with the fabric you wish to colour & simmer for an hour. After an hour carefully remove the fabric & rinse well under cold water. Remember to keep the fabric damp until you're ready to dye it otherwise the dyeing process won't work so well.

If you wish to create a tie dye pattern this is the time to get creative! You could use string to create your patterns, but we found rubber bands were much easier for little fingers to manipulate. 

We wrapped each band over & over itself to create the 'tie' effect & continued to add more along the length of the fabric. When we'd finished with the bands we were ready to tie-dye! 

We poured the vegetable dyes into separate clean saucepans, added the strips of material & simmered for approx 1 hour. 

The longer you leave the fabric immersed in the dye then the darker the final colour will be. 

We used tongs to remove our fabric & placed it straight into a bucket of cold water. This removed any excess dye & cooled the fabric making it easier for us to remove the rubber bands. You may wish to rinse larger lengths of fabric under a cold tap, but as our strips of cloth were so small we just rinsed them in the bucket. 

Now for the most exciting part of the process! The tie-dye patterns were finally ready to be revealed & we could discover if our vegetable dye had worked. To our delight it had, & the colours were glorious! 

The homemade beetroot dye created a pretty soft shade of pink. 

This fabulous golden amber was created from the onion dye.

But our favourite colour had to be the purple produced from Red Cabbage dye.
It highlighted the tie-dye patterns just perfectly.

After drying our tie-dye strips we decided to use them as bookmarks. Now every time we pick up a favourite book we're reminded of all the fruits & veggies we've harvested this year, as well as all the amazing colours that nature has to offer. 

This is a great little project to explore with kids & a neat way to use up any veggie peelings or fruit/veg that is going past its best. Why not celebrate Harvest with a splash of natural colour this year.