Try tie-dyeing with things you already have at home. Teabags, coffee, turmeric, paprika, and wine have the potential to be temporary or semi-permanent dyes for fabric. I say “semi-permanent” because you will likely have some fading over time with any of these, but you can always dye it again with a new color or the same color when it fades.

I love the muted colors of natural dyes. I first remember trying out tea dyeing after reading about it in a Teen Vogue magazine when I was in middle school. I started tea dyeing all of my white shirts, lace, and any fabrics I could find. Tea dyeing is pretty straight forward–you can get results just by boiling a pot of water with tea bags in it and dunking your fabric. Older fabric seems to work well since it has already been washed many times and I recommend leaving your fabric as long as possible–overnight is great. I know there are processes for natural dyeing using preparation methods to bond the pigment to the fabric, but I’ve heard the tannins in tea allow it to stain fabric without these added processes so I did some testing to see if other natural ingredients might work too. The following are some of my results.

If you have turmeric or paprika, these work great for yellow and orange tones. Turmeric works in boiled water or in cold tap water. Paprika works really well in boiled water. Tea comes out a faded tan and my tests with old red wine turned lavender grey. These have all been washed in hot water with regular detergent and dried on delicate. 

For a pop of orange, boil paprika and water with fabric. Use enough paprika to get the desired saturation of dye water.

I used red wine that was no longer drinkable for this grey lavender. The darker one was placed in boiled wine and soaked for a few hours after boiling. Room Temperature wine worked too. I poured it into a jar and soaked the fabric for 2 hours before washing.

Turmeric was my personal favorite. The first time I didn’t measure. I boiled water poured turmeric powder in and I got a pale sunshine yellow. For the second batch, I poured ⅓ cup of turmeric powder in about 4 cups of cold tap water and left the cotton fabric soaking in it for about 2 hours. 

Check out this link if you want to see more turmeric dyed eye candy.

You can even try different tie-dye techniques to get some variation and patterns like the ones in my photos. 

Hannah May

Hannah May

Lead Educator in Art & Design

Hannah May works magic with clay, turning it into magnificent and functional pieces of art.