color color color

Cabbage dye pot

Used black tea bags; just let them dry after making a cup and collect til you have the weight you need

Cabbage-dyed chiffon

Did you enjoy chemistry class in high school? Me neither. But the world of natural dye, now these are some chemical reactions I am really excited about. There are so many interesting and surprising combinations out there. Plants do all these crazy things you would not expect. Much like ceramic glazes, these colors are not necessarily intuitive, and that only serves to make them all the more fascinating. I have a feeling this is a rabbit hole I could fall really far into... I have my eye on another dye class already. Plus, my classmates were all wonderfully funny, creative interesting people, and I can't think of a nicer way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

The above are photos from the class (not many, sorry, I was busy getting my hands dirty) and below are some of the beautiful samples I got to bring home with me. We dyed with a whole head of red cabbage, and a large zip-lock bag full of black tea. The black tea made for some beautifully shimmering, golden browns, but in the dark last night I couldn't get a good picture. With tea, the differences in color that result from using different additives is very subtle - but exquisite. Hopefully I'll manage to snap a good shot for you in the near future.

 From left: cabbage with no additive; cabbage with lemon, cabbage with baking soda, cabbage with iron.

We also used avocado skins, which was easily my favorite part of class. Those cabbage colors are intense - a very disneyland princess mermaid palette - but avocado skins dye things pink. The most beautiful, soft, shy, blushing, multifaceted, dusty rose, living shimmering pink. It was by far the most exciting revelation of class for me. While I don't have a good image of this color right now, I promise you I'm revisiting this project. I've already started collecting skins for my own dye bath at home.

(If you like this idea, here is my suggestion - step one, eat an avocado, or make guacamole, of course. Clean the skins well, scraping out as much of the flesh from the inside as you can. Rinse well with water. Then set them face down atop your radiator overnight until they are nice and dry. This will allow you to store them without fear of rot until you collect enough. For our class we used the skins of 11 fresh avocados, but it was not quite enough to get a fully saturated color; keep in mind you want equal weight of dye stuff to fabric. I plan on saving lots of skins. Good thing I insist we eat an avo every day. Another perk of living in California.)

As the class was only four hours, we dyed with silk to maximize our time. I learned that plant fibers such as hemp, cotton, bamboo, etc., take many more hours to fully absorb a rich deep hue, whereas animal fibers such as silk, wool, alpaca, etc., dye much faster.

The more astute among you realize this means I have several yards of white cotton I didn't use in class. Never fear, I was so inspired I came home and right away set half of my own onion skin collection on to boil. Two of my pieces have been soaking now for almost 3 days, and I am quite pleased with the results. I promise to share very soon.


  1. I am absolutely amazed at those beautiful colors! Wow! It's fascinating the changes in color that the additives make. Looking forward to seeing more of this.

  2. I am just loving the cabbage and lemon .. and I'm dying to see the avo colour?! I guess you could use all these things on yarn too ....
    What did they say about the way the dyes will last? Do they fade quickly?

  3. This is AMAZING!!!! Oh, my goodness!!! I absolutely must try some of this........I guess I'll run that knit picks order. In spite of the fact that I live in "quilt city usa", and we have quilt shops galore----you can't buy a piece of linen here! yarn it is. do you have to 'set' the color with some kind of additive? I can't believe the avocado skins!!! thanks for sharing!!!!

  4. I just love to dye stuff too ... you will be totally hooked now :)

  5. such lovely colours! avocado dye is my favourite colour result too!
    add a drop of iron water or rust water and you get some gorgeous greys too!!