A Natural Dyer’s Home & Garden Series Part 2
Welcome to part 2 of this series where I talk about different kinds of plant materials that are suitable for natural dyeing. Today will be about 5 kitchen scraps you can use for natural dyeing.
If you haven’t read the first post of the series yet, you can click here. In this post I covered 6 garden plants you can use for natural dyeing.
If you want to know more about the natural dyeing process itself, you can have a look at my blog post How to Dye Yarn with Natural Dyes. I have also written a few more posts on this topic which you can find in the natural dyeing category of the blog. And if you are interested in the yarns that I show in this post, you can find them in my Etsy shop.
Alright, let’s have a look through my kitchen and see what we can utilize for dyeing yarn.
Avocados are definitely among my favorite dye materials. I love the fact that I can use the parts that would have otherwise been thrown away. Both the skin and the pits are suitable for natural dyeing. Because the pits can be cleaned and stored more easily, I usually only dye with the pits, though.
Avocado skins and pits are rich in tannins which act as natural mordants. It is therefore possible to omit the mordanting step in the natural dyeing process. I have written a blog post all about tannins as natural mordants which you can find here.
If you still want to mordant the skeins before dyeing with avocados, you have to be aware that you will get a different color result. The dusty pink skein on the left in the picture was dyed with avocado pits without mordanting the yarn first. The apricot and rust colored skeins were mordanted with alum before the dyeing process.
Update Jan 30,2023: If you want to dive deeper into the topic of natural dyeing with avocados, check out this blog post.
#2 Onion Skins
Onion skins are also a great choice for natural dyeing. They are easy to use and versatile. In my blog post about How to Dye Yarn with Natural Dyes, I used onion skins as the dyestuff. By the way, don’t fear, onion skins do not smell like onions when heated in water.
You can use both red and yellow onions skins for natural dyeing and will receive different colorways. Of course you can also dye with a mix of both types of onion skins. If you separate the skins, you can expect yellows to rusts from yellow skins and greens from red skins.
Update Jan 30, 2023: There is a dedicated blog post all about dyeing yarn with onion skins. You can find it here.
#3 Coffee & Tea
Black tea, rooibos tea and coffee can all be used for natural dyeing. They create orange to tan/brown shades of color.
For natural dyeing with tea, you can reuse tea bags and simply put them in water. This makes tea quite a convenient dye material to use.
When it comes to coffee, I use coffee grounds. You just have to be mindful about the drying process if you don’t plan on using the coffee grounds right away. I had several issues where the grounds started to mold in the jar. What works best for me is to collect a days’ worth of coffee grounds, spread them out on a baking sheet and put them on low heat in the oven for about half an hour. If the grounds are cooled off and dry, you can store them in a jar.
Update Jan 30, 2023: I also wrote a blog post dedicated to dyeing yarn with coffee. You can check it out here for more information.
Pomegranate skins are also suitable for natural dyeing. They produce yellow shades. Modifying the colorway with iron afterwards can create grey tones.
If you don’t want to use the skins right away and dry, you have to clean them thoroughly to avoid any molding issues.
#5 Carrot Greens
If you like and regularly buy carrots, look around for carrots that come with the carrot greens still attached next time you are shopping for produce. The carrot greens can be used for natural dyeing both fresh and dried. Although I personally prefer to use fresh dye material whenever possible. The color you get from carrot greens is a clear, vibrant yellow. If you modify the yarn with iron after the dyeing process, you will receive a green with a yellow undertone.
Other Kitchen Scraps with Dye Potential
There are several more kitchen scraps and produce that can be used for natural dyeing. I have intentionally not mentioned red beet, red cabbage, black beans or any kinds of berries in my top five list because the colors these dye materials produce are not colorfast.
What I have wanted to try for the longest time and haven’t had the opportunity yet is dyeing with artichokes. If you like to eat artichokes you might have noticed that the water you cook them in turns into a pink color. I have read that the leaves of the artichokes can produce a colorfast yellow. Whenever I get the chance to try this out, I will report back to you on the color results.
What are your favorite kitchen scraps you can use for natural dyeing? Come share in the comments!
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Want to learn how to dye yarn using natural dyes?
I have created a beginner’s guide to natural dyeing that contains everything you need to know to get started. And the best thing: it is available for free!