Natural Fabric Dyeing with Cottons

Natural Fabric Dyeing with Cottons

I've gotten more than a little bit obsessed with Natural Fabric Dyeing. I've been collecting acorns, flowers, and leaves from all over our small town and tossing them in the dye pot to create some really lovely effects!

There are 2 main types of fibers:

  1. Plant-based (cellulose) fibers like cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo, etc
  2. Animal-based (protein) fibers like silk, wool, alpaca, etc.
When dyeing, the process is different depending on the type of fiber.

    Since I'm a quilter, I am focused on dyeing quilting cottons. So 100% cotton or cotton/linen blends. I'm also very interested in natural and eco-friendly dyeing practices.

    The idea of having a whole stash dyed from flowers, leaves, and extracts sounds like a total dream to me. 

    SO I've been doing a ton of research on all the different process options (some of these techniques date back hundreds of years) and have been figuring out what will be most effective and simplest for cottons/linens.

    Most of the information available about Natural Dyeing pertains to wool, so it's taken some digging and a lot of research to find reliable, tested methods for cottons. 

    I wanted to give you a little peek today at some of my explorations with Natural Fabric Dyeing!

    I've started by collecting a TONNNN of acorns from all over our little town on my husband and my morning walks. I may be gaining a reputation around town as the crazy acorn lady, as I stop on the side of the street, squat down under an oak tree, gathering acorns for my basket... I'm sure it's an unusual sight, oh well! ;)

    The acorns are used in the pre-dyeing stage. You have to process the fabrics in a certain manner first, to ensure the dye will bind to the fibers.

    After all the pre-dye processing, it's time to dye the fabric!! This is the really fun part. I've been experimenting with a bunch of different flowers. Below you'll see the marigold petals...

    I also used onion skins and avocado pits for some lovely olivey-golds and blush pinks!

    My sweet husband buys me flowers regularly (I'm a lucky gal, I know!) and I've been tossing the petals of the flowers in the dye pot as soon as they start to wilt! It's neat that these flowers can live on as a fat quarter! 


     The olive tones were really unexpected from those red petals!

    I'm keeping a Dye Journal to record all of my experiments! I'll be sure to share more soon. I've done a ton of experimenting with flowers/leaves, now I'm eager to try out plant extracts! I'll let you know how it goes (be sure you're signed up for my newsletter, below, to get updates!)

    I'll be teaching a class on Natural Fabric Dyeing in the Meander Quilt Guild (an online guild full of amazing classes where we explore color and a new quilt style each month) in early 2020, if you want to join to take that class, be sure to sign up for The Meander Waitlist, so you can hear when enrollment is open. 

    I'd love to hear from you! Do you have any interest in or experience with Natural Fabric Dyeing? What flowers/leaves in your garden would you like to see live on as a fat quarter? Leave a comment below!


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    Looking forward to getting in to the Meander Guild!

    Tara Meyer

    I used 2 books on fabric dyeing and made some fabrics from red onion skins, green carrot tops, red hibiscus flowers and wild, yellow jasmine. Not bright colors but I’m happy. I used ready to dye white cotton fabric. Didn’t know about the acorn trick. I took a fabric dyeing class at AQS Daytona in 2018. Much brighter colors.

    Laurel Leary

    Yes, Vicki! That’s a lot of the research I’ve been doing— we don’t want any fading or bleeding in our quilts!


    Don’t forget to include the info on colorfast or how to keep our dyed fabrics pretty. See you in the Meander Guild.


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