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Making Organic Colors at Home

Instead of using chemical-laden Holi colours bought from the market, why not check out these simple ways to make your colours at home.

*This content was published earlier and needs to be updated*

Bura na manno holi hai! Playing holi in typical Indian style means a blast of colors all over you. When these chemically loaded colors come in contact with your skin they tend to react, leaving your skin damaged. And that’s not a feel good factor at all. But why does that keeps you away from playing this fun and frolic festival, hence opt for home made holi colors, which are 100% natural and 200% safe. There are many options that are available in the market but we still don’t have an idea of the “natural” content in the pack so, it’s better to do it yourself at your home and we will tell you how.

The colors that are available in market are extremely harmful and you can detect that by just smelling them. The colors stink due to the presence of harsh chemicals in them and for at least 2-3 days you have to lock yourself in your home as they doesn’t wash off easily. The chemicals can harm in many ways like:

> Lead Oxide (Black): Renal failure, learning disability

> Copper Sulphate (Green): Eye allergy, temporary blindness

> Chromium Iodide (Purple): Bronchial asthma, allergies

> Aluminium Bromide (Silver): Carcinogenic

> Mercury Sulphite (Red): Skin cancer    

So, using home made colors is the safest option, they’d go off easily, won’t harm your skin and won’t even cost you much.

Let’s paint the world naturally!

Home Made Holi Colors

> To prepare red color you can get some red sandal wood which is easily available in the market. The best part is that generally this sandal wood is used as face pack. Another way to prepare red color is to dry red hibiscus flower or rose petals, grind them and it’s ready.

> Let’s go green now, take some heena leaves, dry them and grind them for a dry version. To make wet green color soak the heena leaves overnight and your wet green color is ready. Alternatives: You can also use coriander leaves or spinach to make green color.

> For blue, use petals of blue hibiscus flower, grind them and play. Another option, you can use indigo or commonly known as neel (whitening agent) to play.

> Be a dirty fellow with yellow. To make yellow color at home you can use turmeric or haldi powder. You can use kasturi turmeric instead of the normal one as it has a soothing fragrance or you can take petals of marigold flowers (ghenda), dry them and grind them to make herbal yellow color.

> For orange or saffron you can use the petals of Palash flower and follow the same process of drying and grinding.

> To derive violet color use beet root juice and add water in it to increase its quantity.

> For black color you can use black grapes, grind them and separate its pulp (or not) and add water to increase its quantity. Another option, take a steel bowl, clean it and polish the inner surface with mustard oil. Place a candle and on top of it put the steel bowl (oil side) on the candle overnight. Kajal or black dye will be formed which will act as your black color.

> For brown color you can boil tea leaves and cool it down. Add water to increase its quantity and use it.



Eco Dyeing With Flowers: Part 1


Eco Dyeing With Flowers: Part 1

Post image for Eco Dyeing With Flowers: Part 1I have always loved experimenting with natural dyes.  The colors found in nature, in flowers, plants, and vegetables are so much more vibrant and beautiful than artificial colors, and it’s extremely rewarding when you are able to capture that color on a piece of fabric and wear it. It’s also just really fun to do, and something I’ve been wanting to experiment more with ever since my first experiment with fruits and vegetables.  I recently discovered India Flint, an innovator in the art of natural dye, and her work completely blows me away.  She is an expert when it comes to eco dyeing and her book “Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes For Beautiful Textiles” is a must-read if you’re interested in learning more about this practice.  She and other eco dyers use a method of covering a piece of fabric with your plant materials of choice, and wrapping it around a stick and tying it into a little bundle that is then steamed.  I was intrigued and knew I had to attempt it!

eco dyeing with flowers


What you need: A piece of fabric, a stick, and flowers.  You’ll also need a stove, large pot and a colander (if you don’t have a steamer) to steam the bundles.

eco dyeing with flowers


Lay out your piece of fabric and start placing the flowers on it.  The first batch of flowers was a bouquet that included roses, lilies, and chrysanthemums. I decided to take the petals off of the rose and spread them out a bit.


I couldn’t eco dyeing with flowersresist… 😉

eco dyeing with flowers

I decided to keep the rose petals towards one end and more green towards the other end.

eco dyeing with flowers

Once you’re happy with how your flowers are arranged, place the stick on one end and roll your fabric around it.


eco dyeing with flowers

I decided to make two bundles because I wasn’t sure how the flowers I chose would work out.  For the second one I used some primroses, begonias, African violets, and more rose petals.

eco dyeing with flowers

I love the deep red color of these African violets, and their leaves have a nice color too that I hope works well for this!

eco dyeing with flowers


eco dyeing with flowers


eco dyeing with flowers

eco dyeing with flowers

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Once your bundles are rolled up, wrap them with twine to secure them.  When I get home I’m going to steam them for an hour.  I don’t have a steamer, if you don’t either, just place a colander inside a large pot and fill with water up to the bottom of the colander.  Place the bundles in the colander and boil the water to let them steam.  After an hour you can remove them and let them cool over night.  If you want to give them more time, put the bundles in airtight Ziploc bags and let them sit for a few days.

I can’t wait to see how this works! Stay tuned, I’ll reveal my results next week!

UPDATE: Check out the results in Eco Dyeing with Flowers, Part 2!

More DIY Projects from the BLDG 25 Blog.

Photos by Julia.

Source: Eco Dyeing With Flowers: Part 1 http://blog.freepeople.com/2013/01/eco-dyeing-flowers-part-1/#ixzz3w1lZ6LNB


Developing multiple natural dyes from flower parts of Gulmohar


Recently, interest in the use of natural dyes has been growing rapidly due to the result of stringent environmental standards imposed by many countries in response to toxic and allergic reactions associated with synthetic dyes1. Until about 150 years ago all dyes were natural substances, derived mainly from plants and animals. The natural dyes present in plants and animals are pigmentary molecules 2, 3, which impart colour, to the materials. Pigmentary molecules containing aromatic ring structure coupled with a side chain are usually required for resonance and thus to impart colour. There is a correlation of chemical structure with and chromogen-chromophore with auxochrome.

Chromogen is the aromatic structure containing benzene, naphthalene or anthracene rings. The chromogen chromophore structure is often not sufficient to impart solubility and cause adherence of the dye to the fibre, but the presence of auxochrome or bonding affinity groups enhances adherence properties of the dye to the fabrics. With the world becoming more conscious towards ecology and environment, there is greater need today to revive the tradition of natural dye and dyeing techniques as an alternative of hazardous synthetic dyes. The traditional method of dyeing is extremely crude. It is well known that the rural folk dye the yarn by heating chopped leaves or flowers of the plant in water. The process lacks proper shade calculation and reproducibility of shade for subsequent dyeing processes. It is also laborious and time-consuming.

There are several plants/plant parts that provide natural dyes4–9 which are used in the textile industry. The literaturereveals10–15 the chemical composition and biological study of the different parts of Delonix regia ‘Gulmohur’, but no reports exist so far on the extraction of natural dyes from D. regia and their applications. The present investigation deals with the extraction of natural dyes from different flower parts of D. regia and their applications on textiles. D. regia grows in all warm and damp parts of India, and is considered to be one of the most beautiful trees in the world. The tree produces striking flame-like scarlet and yellow flowers during spring before the leaves emerge.

Flowers are brilliant red, the uppermost petal streaked with tallow or yellow-and-white, petals stalked, their distal part abruptly expanded, orbicular, with wavy-crinkled edges, each about 4–6 cm long. Stamens decline together, curving out and down. It has been reported16 that the Gulmohur flower contains flavonoids such as leucoanthocyanin and carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin, violoxanthin, neoxanthin, auroxanthin,5,6-monoepoxylutein, antheraxanthin and flavoxanthin, which are responsible for dyeing. Work has been carried out to prepare eco-friendly natural dyes from different parts of Gulmohur flower and application of colouring materials on cotton and silk yarns. Different parts such as petal, calyx, petal with reproductive organ and whole flowers were extracted separately with methanol as solvent at room temperature. Different parts of the flower were extracted in different time intervals such as 3 h (part I) and subsequently 6 h (part II).

The plant parts (100 g) were taken in pure methanol (500 ml) as solvent for extraction. The organic solvent was then distilled-off to get a brownish-black coloured pasty mass. Total yield of the mass was 8%. The pasty mass (1 g) was used in 20 ml of 0.5% sodium hydroxide solution to make a dye solution for different fabrics such as cotton and silk. The dyeing bath temperature was maintained at 60°C and time of dyeing was 45 min for every procedure at pH range 7–8. Light fastness study of the dyed yarn was carried out by washing with water, soap, rubbing, drying at room temperature and then direct sunlight and exposing the dry yarn to Digi-light for its fastness properties. Silk fabrics showed attractive shades with the dye materials, but cotton fabrics offered dull shades which do not give light fastness properties. Some of the findings are reported in Table 1.

In case of Sl.-1 and Sl.-2, the dye concentrations are the same at the time of dyeing with different dyeing conditions. The Sl.-1 offers golden yellow shades in presence of turmeric on silk fabrics whereas Sl.-2 offers olive green in presence of alum as mordant. The result of dyeing depends upon the concentration of dye after extraction as well as the dyeing condition. However, the dye concentration in Sl.-4 and Sl.-6 is the same as the result for both the cases are similar under the same dyeing conditions. Sl.-4 and Sl. – 6 both give olive green shade using alum as mordant. Sl.-3 gave dark tan shade with turmeric powder and Sl.-5 gave saddle brown shades without mordant with different dyeing conditions. Colouring material extracted from the petal along with reproductive organ (Sl.-7) offers dark brown shades without mordant on silk fabrics, whereas Sl.-8 gave brown shades with alum as mordant. Sl.-9 gave brown shades on silk fabrics without using any mordant. The shades are compared with the nearest equivalent shades according to pantone textile colour guide.


Natural Dye Colors

Please remember that when embarking on your natural dyeing adventures you take care of the environment and sustainability of dye resources and only remove a portion of those available in any one given area.


There are a multitude of naturally dyed yarns, rovings and fabrics out there and sometimes it is hard to imagine where the colors have come from but nature is an amazing thing and add to that a little chemistry and you have a wide array of colors to choose from for your next knitting or sewing project.

There are many naturally occurring plants, minerals and crustaceans in nature that you can use to extract color and produce natural dyes to give soft pastel or rich natural colors to your yarn or fabric.  As with everything, some work better than others and produce stronger and longer lasting color.  This list is far from exhaustive but will give you a good idea of which natural sources produce which colors.  Experimenting with whatever you have on hand is recommended and is half the fun of producing dyes, as you never know what you will discover.

Some things will give different color dye depending on what mordant you use with them or how long they are processed for.  For instance, logwood, mordanted with alum, will give a mauve color and with chrome mordant will give a lovely blue.  Many yellow dye baths will give a greeny hue if used with an Alum mordant but using chrome or tin will brighten them to a clearer yellow and iron will produce a golden yellow to brown.

We recommend you use test pieces of yarn or fabric to ensure you get the color control you want, before embarking on a major dyeing spree.

The most common resources for making dyes are in bold format.

Natural Dye Colors from red hibiscus flowers

Dried Hibiscus flowers,  Extracting the Dye,   Dye vat with yarn & end color results ©Allnaturaldyeing.com

Natural Dyeing – Reds

tip: When making red dyes be sure to slowly raise the temperature of the dye vat as reds have a tendency to go brown when too much heat is applied. The maximum temperature for red dyes should be 180C. DO NOT BOIL.

Cochineal – a small insect found on nopales or paddle cactus
Lac – insects
Hibiscus   – flowers
Madder    – roots
Red Elderberry – berries
Sumac – berries
Beetroot – root vegetable
Brazilwood – wood
St John’s Wort – whole plant
Sycamore – bark
Cadmium – mineral

Natural Dyeing – Redish Purples

Red Basil – whole plant
Dark Red Hibiscus – flowers
Daylillies – flowers past their prime
Vermillon – mineral
Lac – insect

Natural Dyeing – Pinks

Roses – flower
Lichens – whole plant
Cherries – fruit
White Bedstraw – roots

Natural Dyeing

Socks knit using yarn dyed with Turmeric roots

Natural Dyeing – Yellows

Bayleaves – leaves
Saffron – stamens
Marigold – flowers
Queen Annes Lace – flowers
St John’s Wort – plant
Golden Rod – flowers
Tumeric – roots or powder
Osage Orange – inner bark or shavings
Tea – leaves
Brown Onion – skins
Larkspur – plant
Chromium – mineral
Lead – mineral
Titanium – mineral

Natural Dye Color using brown onion skins

A good source of yellows and golds through to oranges can be achieved with brown onion skins.

Natural Dyeing – Oranges

Brown Onion – skins

Tumeric – roots
Giant Coreopsis – any part of the plant
Bloodroot – roots
Barberry – any part of the plant
Eucalyptus – leaves

Natural Dyeing – Browns

Oak Bark – bark
Walnut – Hulls
Dandelion – roots
Coffee – grinds
Yellow dock – plant
Ivy – woody stems
Golden Rod – shoots
Tea – leaves
Sumac – leaves, powder
Birch – bark
Brown Clay – clay soil
Limonite – clay
Octopus/cuttlefish – ink

Natural Dyeing – Blues to Bluish Purples

Dogwood – fruit
Hyacinth – flowers
Indigo – foliage
Red Maple Tree – inner bark

Woad – leaves
Mulberries – fruit
Elderberries – fruit
Blueberries – fruit
Cornflower – flowers
Blackbeans – dried bean
Cobalt – mineral
Copper – mineral
Murex Snail – trunculus

Natural Dyeing – Greens

Tea Tree – flowers
Spinach – leaves
Larkspur – plant
Red Onion – skins
Yarrow – flowers
Chamomile – leaves
Black-eyed Susans – flowers
Nettle – leaves
Dyer’s Broom – plant
Chromium – mineral

Natural dyeing

Image Credit boston7513kevin on flickr

Natural Dyeing – Grey to Black

Oak Galls – Galls
Sumac – leaves
Walnut – hulls
Iris – roots
Black Beans – dried bean
Titanium – mineral
Carbon – mineral

Producing natural dyes can be a long and sometimes difficult process to do yourself but many natural dyes can be bought online and the extraction process has already been done for you.
Tip: Cooling your dyes in the dye vat overnight will allow for maximum dye extraction from the plant.
If your yarn is not turning out the way you expected try try again or have a look at some online stores that sell natural dyes.

How To Dye Fabrics Using Natural Materials

Natural materials to use for dye

Not all natural materials will produce a dye, and some produce colors that are nothing like the original plant it came from. Here’s a list of colors and the plant material that will give you shades in that color.

  • Orange: carrots, gold lichen, onion skins
  • Brown: dandelion roots, oak bark, walnut hulls, tea, coffee, acorns
  • Pink: berries, cherries, red and pink roses, avocado skins and seeds (really!)
  • Blue: indigo, woad, red cabbage, elderberries, red mulberries, blueberries, purple grapes, dogwood bark
  • Red-brown: pomegranates, beets, bamboo, hibiscus (reddish color flowers), bloodroot
  • Grey-black: Blackberries, walnut hulls, iris root
  • Red-purple: red sumac berries, basil leaves, day lilies, pokeweed berries, huckleberries
  • Green: artichokes, sorrel roots, spinach, peppermint leaves, snapdragons, lilacs, grass, nettles, plantain, peach leaves
  • Yellow: bay leaves, marigolds, sunflower petals, St John’s Wort, dandelion flowers, paprika, turmeric, celery leaves, lilac twigs, Queen Anne’s Lace roots, mahonia roots, barberry roots, yellowroot roots, yellow dock roots

    Making natural dyes from plants, fruit and flowers can be a fun project for boys as well as for girls.

    Bowls with flowers - natural dyes using plants - Just Kids - creative aactivities My Sheen Village_sThese days, kids seem to get bored even faster and keeping them occupied at home during the school holidays can be an uphill battle.  If you don’t like the idea of them being glued to a screen all day and want to get them outside into some fresh air, then making natural dyes from plants, fruit and flowers can be a fun project for boys as well as for girls.


    Many sources of natural dyes can be found in your kitchen and garden: onion skins, carrots and the spice turmeric can all be used separately to make orange coloured dyes; rose hips and elderberry will produce reds; roses and lavender mixed with mint and lemon juice make a vibrant pink; and blueberries will make .. well ummm …… blue!

    For those of you who wish to create specific colours then a fuller list of some of the plants and flowers that are needed is given below.  However, it can also be fun to simply experiment with some roots, seeds or flower petals to discover the colours and shades you can create on your own.

    When gathering plants for dyes, do make sure that your berries are ripe and that flowers are picked in full bloom.  Do not over pick a plant since you want to leave the plant with enough seeds and growth potential to re-establish itself.


    A dye bath (eg. a large saucepan that no-one minds becoming stained)
    Another large saucepan for the fixative process
    Rubber gloves (essential unless you wish to dye your hands as well!)
    A large spoon for stirring the dye mixtures.
    A large sieve
    A large bowl (an old clean plastic washing up bowl should be adequate)
    Pieces of white pure cotton fabric (eg. old cotton sheets tore into smaller pieces and old or inexpensive white cotton t-shirts).  Other natural fabrics such as muslin, silk and wool can also be used.  Do not try to dye synthetics or natural fabrics that also contain some synthetic material.

    It is highly recommended that children wear old clothes and aprons to protect from splashes of plant dyes; you can be sure that, where paints and dyes are involved, children will inevitably get splashed somewhere.


    Cut your plants or roots into small pieces and place them into your dye bath/saucepan.

    Then pour twice the amount of water to the amount of plant pieces you have into the bath.

    Place the saucepan onto the hob and bring it to the boil.

    For Flowers: boil for 20 minutes. Then strain the liquid through a sieve into your dye bath ready for your fabric. Note: the fabric needs to be soaked in the fixative before dyeing – see below.

    For Bark, Roots and other hard substances:  First soak these in water overnight.  Next day, bring the liquid to the boil and allow to continue for half an hour whilst making sure the liquid doesn’t all boil away.  Strain the remaining liquid off into a container and then add more water to the bark/roots and boil again.  Repeat this process 3 or 4 times until no more dye can be extracted from the plant material. Having poured the liquid off a number of times you should now have an intense colour liquid ready to use for dyeing your cloth.


    Your fabrics will need to be soaked in the fixative before you can start dyeing them.

    For dye made from berries, you will need 250 grams of salt to 2 litres of cold water
    For dye made from plants, you will need 1 part of white vinegar to 4 parts of cold water.
    Some plant materials may need cooking quality Alum as a colour fixative.  Alum can be ordered on the internet if you are unable to find it at your local chemists.

    Dyeing pink cloth - Using natural dyes - creative activities - Just Kids - My Sheen VillageBefore making your dye, place your fabric into a saucepan with the appropriate fixative and simmer for one hour.  Then rinse the fabric a number of times, squeezing out the liquid each time until the water runs clear


    Place your wet fabric that has been soaked in the fixative into your dye bath.  Bring to the boil and simmer until the required colour is achieved.  Do not try and dye too much at one time.  There should be room for the item being dyed to be spread out otherwise it may become patchy in colour.

    Remember that the colour of the fabric will dry a lighter shade.  For a darker, stronger shade, allow the fabric to soak in the dye solution over night.

    Dyeing purple cloth - Using natural dyes - Creative Activities - Just Kids - My Sheen VillageOTHER IDEAS FOR DYING FABRIC

    These include tie dyeing or painting a pattern with the dye onto a t-shirt.

    To prevent the dye passing through from the front to the back of the t-shirt, insert a sheet of thick cardboard between the two layers, prior to painting.

    Note:  Although you have used a fixative for your fabric it is advisable to launder separately any clothes that have been treated with natural dyes.
    Note: Children should be supervised at all times.  Check that plants that you are using are not poisonous to humans or animals when using them for natural dyes.


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