ladybug in between stalks of green grass

Natural Green Dyes for Yarn and Fabric

This article contains an overview of natural green dyes that can be used to dye both yarn and fabric.

The first color that comes to mind when thinking about nature is green. Green is everywhere, in the grass and the trees, the flower leaves and vegetable plants. But did you know that green is actually one of the more challenging colors to create with natural dyes? Today we will explore different options to create green colorways on yarn and fabric.

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ladybug in between stalks of green grass

If you want to learn how to dye yarn with natural dyes, you can check out this step by step tutorial on my Youtube channel:

a woman holding a yellow skein of yarn. a second picture is showing a basket filled with colorful skeins of yarn. a text saying: How to dye yarn at home with natural dyes

Method #1 to Create Natural Green Dyes

A simple option to achieve green colorways with natural dyes is to create a different colorway first and modify the yarn or fabric with the help of iron sulfate in a second step to shift the color towards green.

What is Iron Sulfate?

Iron(II) sulfate or ferrous sulfate (FeSO4) is a salt. It can damage the wool and make it brittle when used in high concentrations and over longer periods of time. Therefore, I don’t use iron(II) sulfate as a mordant. Adding an iron modifier will make the colors darker and duller in tone. It can also completely transform a dye color.

a hand holding a spoon with iron (II) sulfate for natural dyeing

Application of Iron Sulfate:
I have great success with dissolving 1.5 g of ferrous sulfate per 100 g skein of yarn in cold water. I put the yarn in the iron bath and leave it for 30 minutes without heating. If I am not happy with the result, I will leave the yarn in the bath a bit longer, but never more than one hour. In my experience, this doesn’t damage the fibers but you can still get great color modifications.

From my experience, this method can be successfully applied with the following dyestuff:

Here are some examples:

two yellow and green mini skeins of yarn and a rosemary branch next to it
example 1, dyed with rosemary (left skein) and modified with iron (right skein)
one light yellow/cream and one dusty green skein of yarn next to some branches
example 2, dyed with nettles (left skein) and modified with iron (right skein)
green and yellow socks on a rock in the woods naturally dyed with pine needles
dyed with pine needles (sock below) and modified with iron (sock on top)

Method #2 to Create Natural Green Dyes

But if green isn’t the most readily available colorway you can create with natural materials, which color is it instead? The answer might surprise you: it’s yellow.

Here are some examples of dye plants or natural materials you can use to create yellow. Whenever there is a specific tutorial of how to use this dyestuff already on my website, it will be linked for you down below.

We can use the fact that yellow dye is so common in nature to our advantage when creating greens. To wrap your head around this, you have to take the color wheel into consideration. The three primary colors are red, blue and yellow. Green is a secondary color and can be created by mixing yellow and blue.

watercolor color wheel

image source: Art Graphica

So, if yellow is a colorway that can easily be created with a number of different dye plants, how you can you go from yellow to green? The answer is creating a yellow colorway first and overdyeing it with a blue dyestuff afterwards (or vice versa). The resulting colorway will be green.

The following natural materials create blue colorways:

Different hues of yellow will result in different shades of greens. This depends on the specific dyestuff you have used to dye your yarn or fabric yellow. Here are some examples of green colorways I created with this method. All of these colorways have been achieved by using indigo as the blue dye source.

deep green skein of yarn next to a goldenrod branch and some yellow grasses

“Pine” – colorway dyed with goldenrod and indigo

blue, green and yellow skein of yarn next to some sweet pea blooms and a rosemary branch

“Midsummer” – colorway dyed with reseda and indigo

soft natural green skein of yarn next to some eucalyptus leaves

“Eucalyptus” – colorway dyed with nettles and indigo

Can you make Green Dye with Spinach?

While it is possible to use spinach leaves as a green dye color source, the dye is unfortunately not colorfast. This means that the colors will fade quickly when exposed to sunlight or water. If you are looking for a way to naturally color food like Easter eggs or homemade pasta, you can indeed use spinach to create green colorways.

Is Common Reed a suitable Dyestuff to Create Green?

During my research for this article I came around common reed or Phragmites australis. Several natural dyers mentioned that they were able to achieve a green colorway when dyeing with common reed – without overdyeing or modifying with iron. However, I couldn’t find any information on the colorfastness of this dye. If you are able to forage for common reed in your surrounding area, it might be worth giving it a shot anyways and see where the experiment takes you.


natural background and some drawn flowers, a basket filled with naturally colored yarns and a text saying: all natural yarns, hand dyed in Germany with natural dyes, non-superwash & plastic free, wool from German Merino sheep, sustainable & eco-friendly

What is your favorite way to create green colorways using natural dyes? Come share in the comments!

Pin It For Later: Natural Green Dyes for Yarn and Fabric

a ladybag sitting in the grass and two images of green skeins of yarns. In the middle is a text saying "natural green dyes for yarn and fabric"

And if you are interested in naturally dyeing fibers in a different colors, check out my blog post about Naturally Yellow Dyes for Yarns and Fabrics.

three skeins of different shades of yellow, naturally dyed yarn next to two citrus slices and a branch of mint. everything is laying on a white surface

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!

four hand dyed skeins of yarn in shades of purple and blue on a wooden surface and a text saying beginner's guide: www.rosemaryandpinesfiberarts.de. natural dyeing. everything you need to know to get started dyeing yarn with natural dyes

Annika

I am a yarn dyeing artist, writer and educator.
I am also an avid knitter and love to create something with my hands every day.
Read more about me here:
https://www.rosemaryandpinesfiberarts.de/about-the-writer/

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4 Comments

  1. Leah says:

    You have some beautiful greens. I’m particularly in love with “Pine”. Another green is derived from the fuzzy leaves of Black Eyed Susan which yields a rich olive green. A tip, using soy mild on bast fibers greatly improves color retention. Where can I find the proportions for your dyes?
    Thanks for the great info
    Leah

    1. says:

      Hi Leah, Thank you so much for your valuable comment and tips. What do you mean by proportions? The dye recipe with the exact amounts of dyestuff I used? If so, you can send me an email me at rosemaryandpinesfiberarts@gmail.com. Kind regards Annika

  2. Jai Shen says:

    Excellent info !
    I am dying cottons and China silk.
    I mostly use alum for my mordant.
    This powder hold the color well.
    I use pine needles medicinally ,
    But will try it as a dye with
    Iron.
    I am growing woad , but it’s not ready to harvest .
    I will look into purchasing some
    Indigo , love the greens from mixing , golden rod .
    Beautiful natural plant dyes.
    Bring it back from the past!
    Thank you
    Jai , 9 Pine Designs

    1. says:

      Hi Jai, Thank you so much for your comment! Kind regards Annika

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