Naturally, dyeing fabrics has quickly become one of my favorite hobbies and past times. It’s one of those hobbies that is quick to learn but takes a lifetime to master. I love natural dyeing because it allows you to extract the beauty of plant dyes and create & up-cycle timeless clothing, linens, fabrics, etc. I’ve written a few blog posts on the subject of how to naturally dye with marigolds and how to upcycle clothing. In this post, I want to go a little deeper and run through the best flowers for dyeing fabric. Using these flowers, you can extract beautiful, natural colors and create a variety of designs.
The dye extracted from these flowers can be used in protein fibers and cellulose fibers. You will just have to scour and mordant with the proper agents before dyeing your fabric. All of the ratios and science can be found in How to Naturally Dye and Upcycle Clothing. Let’s explore some of these beautiful plant dyes!
Beautiful Golden Orange to Yellow Dye with Marigolds
Marigold is by far one of my favorite dyes. With fresh Marigold flowers, you can extract a beautiful, all-natural golden orange to yellow dye. I’ve gone in-depth on how to dye specifically with marigolds in my How to Naturally Dye with Marigold blog post. Marigolds are usually in bloom from late summer to early fall. When in season, marigolds are easy to spot and are very abundant.
Sulfur Cosmos ‘Cosmos Sulpheurus’ photo by Hotae Kim
Purple cosmo flowers getting ready to be pressed for a bundle dye bath
Purple, Orange, and Yellow Dye with Cosmos
To get a deeper orange and lighter red natural dye, use cosmos. Cosmos are stunning flowers that are in bloom during the summer months. In concentration, you can use cosmos to extract a beautiful orange or red dye. Local Color Dyes has an amazing post about dyeing naturally with the cosmos. She explains the pH sensitivity and how to get the color you are looking for. I personally love the deep orange that you get when using cosmos and tend to use them when I want something slightly darker than marigold. Cosmos make a GORGEOUS eco-print in any color cosmo you can find. My personal favorite cosmo to naturally dye with is Sulfur Cosmos ‘Cosmos Sulpheurus’ always known as “bright lights cosmo”. You can purchase the seeds here on Etsy. Or purchase dried cosmos here to naturally dye with.
chamomile flowers for natural dyeing
Light Yellow Dye with Chamomile
If you want a light yellow natural color for your cloth, I’d recommend using Dyer’s Chamomile. Chamomile is definitely lighter in hue than marigold. I love to use chamomile for a lighter, “vintage look” for garments. When naturally dyeing I try to use what’s in season. First, it’s easier to find, but second, it’s when the plant is most vibrant. Chamomile is in season from early summer to the first frost of fall. This works out great when planning out fabrics that need a yellow dye because the dyeing season comes before Marigolds. It also feels right to do a light yellow dye during the summer and a darker yellow dye closer to fall. Feels like you are working with the natural rhythm of the sun.
Coreopsis Flowers used for natural dyeing & eco printing
Coreopsis Flowers used for natural dyeing & eco printing
Vibrant Orange Dye with Coreopsis
Coreopsis flowers are wonderful for natural dyeing. Their vibrant color is easily extracted into a dye that makes your fabrics glow. The flowers are also fairly common so you can create a concentrated dye solution very easily.
Another amazing feature of the coreopsis flower is you can do beautiful eco-prints with them. Eco-printing is the art of taking a full flower and transferring it to a piece of cloth to make patterns. I’m just getting started on this journey, so you will definitely see more from me on this subject. With the coreopsis flower, you get a beautiful ombre effect after eco-printing.
Light Blue Dye with Black Hollyhock
Blue Dye is a little bit different than the other dyes we’ve gone through so far. It’s also much harder to get naturally. However, using black Hollyhock flowers, you can extract a beautiful, light blue. This light blue is a perfect vibe for summertime and lighter garments. The blue can also add a lot of life to your older vintage clothing.
On the subject of eco-printing, using a black Hollyhock gives you a beautiful purple-colored flower when eco-printing. These flowers are stunning when eco-printed.
Purple Pincushion Flower
Purple pincushion flowers yield a variance of colors from purple to green when combined with certain modifiers. I usually use the purple pincushion flower for a natural, purple color since it’s one of the few flowers that yield purple.
Goldenrod Flowers make a beautiful, yellow natural dye that reminds me of spring. Just make sure you mordant the fabric! If you are lucky enough to have golden rod flowers, you can make some stunning, bright yellow garments.
Goldenrod photos for natural dyeing
Black-Eyed Susun Flowers used for natural dyeing
Black-Eyed Susan Flowers used for natural dyeing
Black-Eyed Susan Flowers
Even though Black-Eyed Susan Flowers are vibrant yellow, flowers with a dark, black center. You’d think these flowers would produce a yellow dye. Instead, they produce a light green, almost mint-colored natural dye depending on how you scour and mordant the fabric.
Yarrow flowers grow abundant in my garden. Luckily you can naturally dye with them as well! When dyeing with yarrow, you get a super light, almost brown-colored result. If you are looking for a very neutral dye, yarrow is a good plant to go to.
yellow yarrow for natural dyeing
pink yarrow flowers for natural dyeing
Tips for Finding Flowers to Make Natural Dyes
There are two ways to source your flowers for natural dyes. One way you can source flowers is online from Mountain Rose Herbs or Etsy. When ordering from Mountain Rose Herbs, you will definitely find organic flowers (more on this later). When browsing Etsy, make sure you find organic flowers. There are a lot of options out there but make sure you find a good source.
The second way is to grow or forage your flowers. With both methods, make sure you are growing or foraging for organic flowers only. The purpose of natural dyeing is to avoid unnecessary chemicals getting into your clothes. If the flowers are not organic, you run the risk of pesticides, herbicides or other unnatural chemicals ending up in your dye pot.
When growing or foraging for flowers, I also recommend harvesting only what is in season and what you need. This is a sign of respect for the plant, will minimize waste, and ensure a longer dyeing season. For example, if I find a whole bunch of marigolds, I will only take a few flowers at a time. This will allow the flowers to easily grow back so I (or others if you are foraging) can harvest more. If you are looking for a more concentrated dye, harvest the flowers in batches. Dried flowers still produce a beautiful dye when added to the dye pot!
Extracting the best color
Once you have your flowers collected and your garment ready to dye, it’s time to extract the color magic provided by nature. Here are some tips and tricks you can experiment with to get the color you are looking for.
More Concentration of Flowers = Deeper Color
The more flowers per water, the deeper the dye bath color. This is important when shooting for the color of the final piece. If you want a darker color, you are going to have to accumulate more flowers. However, if you are fine with a lighter color to the piece, fewer flowers will do.
Experiment with Tannins
Tannins are modifiers such as iron or acidic like lemon juice. These modifiers chemically adjust the dye bath to produce a different color. One warning is to only use natural tannins! The goal is to naturally dye a piece of fabric. If you are using unnatural chemicals, this could have negative side effects!
If you are interested in learning more about natural dyeing, check out these resources: