How to Make and Dye Fabric with Food

WHY

Dyeing your own clothes opens up a lot of options for creating something tailored to your preferences or replicating something you want. e.g. I wanted a Rick Owens muted green/yellow t-shirt for an outfit and I didn’t like the fit and definitely didn’t like the price ($450). So I mixed up some dyes and dyed a t-shirt that fits really well and only costs $55 dollars.

The Acne Studios beanie I dyed in the article here I got for a really nice discount. The pale pink color just wasn’t as versatile for my wardrobe as say a neutral color like black or grey. I also didn’t really want a simple black or grey beanie. The other day I was reading an article about The Elder Statesman and saw that he uses a lot of natural dyes from a specific place. Also, Visvim has been know to do the same using mud and clay to dye boots and jackets. So I started to do some research on natural dyes and learned some ingredients from food to plants that can be used to dye fabric.

I already had an idea of what color I wanted in my head (blueish purple charcoal). So I combined three ingredients that would create something like that, black beans (black), blackberries (purple), and blueberries (blue). The end results I couldn’t be more happy with the color came out better then I expected and the whole dyeing process went really well and was fairly simple. Keep reading to see exactly how I made the dye and see the end results of the Acne Studios beanie.

 
 
 

WHAT YOU WILL NEED?

Ingredients that you will need, black beans, blackberries, blueberries, salt, water and vinegar. Household items you’ll need, two large stainless steel pots with lid, stove, strainer, unscented detergent, latex gloves and a stirring utensil.


COLOR SCALE

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Your fabric should turn a color on the color scale above. There is really no guarantee of a certain color with natural ingredient dyes. Many factors go into dyeing with and without natural dyes such as what color was the fabric before, what type of fabric you’re using and how long you let it your fabric soak.


THE PRODUCTS I DYED

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ACNE STUDIOS PEELE BEANIE

A really nice warm and thick beanie from Acne Studios. I personally like the muted pink color but it’s not the most versatile color for my wardrobe. The color it came out after I dyed it however is extremely versatile.

SELLOUT RISK: LOW MED HIGH

Purchase now at endclothing.com for $105.00 was $159.00

 
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TOMMY JOHN SECOND SKIN T-SHIRT

My go-to t-shirts are from Tommy John. They have held up amazingly and the fit for me couldn’t be any better. (I lie, a thicker and higher neck ribbing would be very nice!) I have died a couple of these and they always end up looking great.

SELLOUT RISK: LOW MED HIGH

Purchase now at tommyjohn.com for $55.00


 

INSTRUCTIONS

Grab your stainless steel pot toss in blackberries, blueberries, and black beans, no need to rinse. Sprinkle a heavy amount of salt on top - sea, kosher or table salt will all work. I used 16 oz. of black beans and 8 oz. for each fruit and dyed less than a pound of fabric. Fill your pot with clean water.

Side note. You can experiment with the mixture yourself depending on what tint you want your color to have. Blackberries will produce a dark maroon color, blueberries will produce a light blue color and black beans will produce dark charcoal and or brown charcoal color.

Put your filled pot on the stove and bring it to a boil (use the lid to make the water boil quicker). Once your dye mixture starts to boil mix it and let it boil (don’t let it overflow) for about 15 minutes. Then turn the burner you’re using to your stoves lowest setting and let it simmer for 1 hour.

After simmering for 1 hour let it rest with your stove off for 30 minutes with the lid on it. Then strain your dye carefully over the sink into another pot or bowl removing the ingredients and toss them in the trash (I would not eat your cooked ingredients although you can if you want). If you poured your dye in another pot or if you poured it into a bowl put the dye back in the original pot and put it back on the stove with the stove turned back onto low.

Now it’s time to put whatever you are dyeing into the pot full of dye, carefully. The dye does not have to be hot but the hotter it is the better your fabric will take the color especially for polyester and wool. Once you have your garment in the pot make sure your item is completely submerged in the dye let it rest in the dye for a few minutes and start stirring slowly and frequently for a minimum of 15 minutes (the longer you let it cook in the hot dye the darker it will most likely be).

Next, turn your stove off and let your item rest in the dye for a minimum of 30 minutes. Again, the longer you let it soak the darker it will most likely be. I personally let both my items soak for around an hour together in the pot.

After your desired soak time is up check your dye to see if it's too hot to touch if it is let it rest longer until you can touch it without it burning your hands or melting your gloves. Once it is manageable to work with remove what item or items you have in the pot and put them into your sink. Once in your sink rinse with hot water until it runs clear, then ring dry.

Now you have a good idea of what color shade your fabric is but it may change still. For this last step, you have two options hand wash or machine (I did both). Either option you choose to add a fair amount of vinegar with your detergent and wash your dyed item or items. After washing you can throw them in the dryer or let air dry (I used the dryer on low heat).

Once your item or items are dry that is pretty much your items final color, it may fade or bleed slightly. Bleeding is unlikely for natural dyes which is one of the many pros to using them over chemical dyes. But, you may still want to wash your items separately for a few cycles.


RESULTS

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THOUGHTS

As you can see from the picture above the composition of the beanie soaked up the dye a lot more than the t-shirt. I really made this dye just to do the beanie but I loved the colors it was giving me so I threw in the t-shirt as well. I’m not sure on what color the beanie really could be called but I couldn’t be happier about the end results. I will be creating a lot more natural dyes in the future and posting them on attireadvisor.com. I can’t recommend dyeing your garments enough. If you see something you want and you don’t like or just prefer another color but love the design or price, dye it! The possibilities are endless and the final results are usually very satisfying.

 

Image sources: matchesfashion.com|endclothing.com