How to Make Natural Fabric Dyes From Plants and Vegetables

We used beets, spinach, turmeric, and red cabbage to create a brilliant range of dye colors for tie dyeing and more.

Discover the process of dyeing with this natural dye pulling (tie dyeing) DIY. This project is great to do with kids and is part of our Kids Lab series.

What You'll Need


  • Cutting board
  • Vegetables or plants (we used beets, spinach, tumeric and red cabbage)
  • Knife
  • Blender
  • Water
  • Cheesecloth
  • Strainer
  • Large bowl or measuring cup
  • Salt
  • Condiment bottles
  • Funnel
  • White t-shirt or other dyeable material
  • Rubber bands
  • Baking sheet with rack


  1. To make the dye: Wearing gloves, chop up raw ingredients and place in a blender using a ratio of two cups of very hot (almost boiling) water to every two cups of raw material.

  2. If using a spice, such as turmeric, add one to two tablespoons of spice to every two cups of hot water.

  3. Other materials I used included red cabbage (purple), beets (pink/red), and spinach/parsley (green).

  4. Blend the mixture until it becomes a very fine slurry.

  5. When done blending, strain the mixture through a cheesecloth-lined strainer.

  6. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of table salt in the liquid.

  7. Decant into condiment bottles with a small funnel.

  8. To prepare fabric for dyeing, wash fabric very well in the laundry as usual.

  9. Dry completely in the dryer.

  10. Use rubber bands to create a pattern on your shirt (or other cotton items such as socks, bags, onesies, etc.).

  11. Pinch, pleat, or fold the fabric to make the design.

  12. Once you're satisfied with your design, treat the fabric with a fixative/mordant.

  13. Mix 1 cup of salt with 16 cups of water (or ½ cup of salt with 8 cups of water), and bring to a boil.

  14. Simmer your fabric in this solution for one hour prior to dyeing.

  15. (If you are making a plant- or veggie-based dye, mix 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water and follow the same process.)

  16. When done simmering, run under cool water.

  17. Wring out a bit of the excess water.

  18. To dye fabric: Wearing gloves, squirt dyes directly onto the fabric. Tip: Plan to put adjacent primary colors (red, yellow, blue) or secondary colors like orange, green, and purple next to each other; in the areas where they run together, they will blend together and create a third color.

  19. Keep paper towels handy so dye doesn't puddle or seep into an area where you plan to place another color. Tip: The shirt could be placed on a baking rack when applying dye so it runs through; just be sure to place an old tray or newspapers under it.

  20. Once adequately dyed, place the fabric into a plastic bag and seal.

  21. Heat in microwave for 2 minutes on high on a bed of paper towels or a plate.

  22. Take the bag out of the microwave and allow it to cool completely overnight.

  23. Once rested, rinse under cool water.

  24. Remove or cut rubber bands, and hang to air dry completely

  25. To further heat set the dye, run the item through the drier on high for about an hour.

  26. Launder only by hand in a very mild detergent.

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