How to Make Natural Organic Brown Fabric Dyes From Plants

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    How to Create Natural Brown Dyes from Plants

    Brown yarn
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    One of the most common colors colors in the plant world is brown. Fortunately, nature gives us an abundance of plants that produce brown dyes.  

    Learn how to create natural brown dyes from plants and then use it to dye fibers and fabrics for your home, clothing and craft projects.

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    Amur Maple Leaves

    Amur Maple
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    The Amur Maple, Acer ginnala, is a small maple tree that reaches 15 to 20-feet tall. It features clusters of fragrant, creamy white flowers in spring; red fruit on certain cultivars and brilliant autumn color of yellow and red leaves. The tree can be grown in Zones 3-8. Originally from Asia, it is native to Korea, Japan, Mongolia and Siberia.

    It is the autumn dried leaves that should be gathered to create a natural dye. The leaves produce a dark brown with black undertones when boiled.

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  • 03 of 26

    Beet Root

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    The beet, Beta vulgaris, is a plant best known in its numerous cultivated varieties including the common garden beet.

    The color of garden beetroot is due to a variety of betalain pigments. The composition of different betalain pigments can vary, giving breeds of beetroot which are yellow or other colors in addition to the familiar deep red. The pigments are contained in cell vacuoles. Beetroot cells are quite unstable and will 'leak' when cut or heated. Removing the skin when boiling will...MORE help release more of the dye.

    To achieve a lovely deep brown dye, add FeSO4 or ferrous sulfate (iron sulfate) to the dye bath.

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  • 04 of 26

    Birch Bark

    Birch Bark
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    The bark of all varieties of birch tree will produce a brown dye. Birch species are generally small to medium-sized trees or shrubs, mostly found in temperate climates. Varieties include white birch, silver birch, paper birch, black or river birch, cherry birch.

    The bark of all birches is characteristically marked with long, horizontal dark lines and often separates into thin, papery plates. It is resistant to decay. Its decided color gives the common names gray, white, black, silver and yellow...MORE birch to different species.

    A light brown dye is produced from the bark and needs an alum treatment to fully set the color.

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  • 05 of 26

    Broom Bark

    Broom Bark
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    Brooms are a group of evergreen, semi-evergreen and deciduous shrubs. The plants produce dense, slender green stems and very small leaves, which are adaptations to dry growing conditions. Most have yellow flowers, but a few have white, orange, red, pink or purple flowers.

    The most widely familiar plant in the United States is common broom (Cytisus scoparius, syn. Sarothamnus scoparius), a native of northwestern Europe. It is usually found in sunny sites and in dry, sandy soils. Like most brooms,...MORE it has apparently leafless stems that in spring and summer are covered in profuse golden-yellow flowers. In late summer, its peapod-like seed capsules burst open, often with an audible pop, spreading seed from the parent plant.

    To make a yellow brown dye, boil the woody stems in water.

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  • 06 of 26

    Broom Sedge

    Broom Sedge
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    Broom sedge, also known as beard grass, is a member of the grass family, Poaceae. It is a perennial grass that grows as a hardy clump. It dies back every fall then regrows from the same root mass the following spring. The stiff, erect stems reach 3' to 4' in height.Historically, the long, brush-like grasses were used to make brooms, which accounts for the common name. In the fall, the leaves turn a conspicuous reddish-orange color that may be seen in open fields or along roadsides and...MORE forests edges. There is a fuzzy growth that appears on the plant in the fall is part of the bloom and the hairs aid in the wind dispersal of seeds.

    Broom sedge is widely distributed throughout much of the eastern United States, from as far north as Maine and south into Florida. Its range extends westward to Texas and Illinois.

    The grass when boiled in water will produce a golden yellowish-brown dye.

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  • 07 of 26

    Coffee Grounds

    Coffee Grounds
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    The same component in coffee - tannin - that causes stains can also be used to create shades from ecru to a warm brown dye.

    Dyeing with coffee grounds can be done by brewing coffee and using the hot coffee as the dye bath. Espresso coffee is darker than regular roast. The darker the bean, the darker the dye. If you plan ahead and want to do a large batch of dyeing, refrigerate or freeze grounds from your daily brewing until you have enough grounds for a large batch. Heat in boiling water, strain...MORE and use the liquid for the dye bath.

    Another technique is to massage the coffee grounds into the fabric. Damp grounds give more distress and color than very wet grounds. Make a paste of raw coffee and smear it on the fabric. Dry the fabric thoroughly with the grounds still in place. Brush off excess grounds when fabric is completely dry.

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  • 08 of 26

    Colorado White Fir Bark

    Colorado White Fir
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    The Colorado White Fir, Abies concolor, is native to the mountains of western North America (not just Colorado) It is a medium to large evergreen coniferous tree. It is popular as an ornamental landscaping tree and young trees are often sold as Christmas trees. The trees are popular for Christmas trees and Christmas decoration due to its soft needles, generally excellent needle retention and abundance.

    The needles are silvery blue to silvery green, curve up from the stem and are soft to the...MORE touch. The bark is thin and an ashy gray with resin blisters. Porcupines like to gnaw on the White Fir's bark.

    The bark when boiled produces a light brown or tan dye.

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  • 09 of 26

    Coneflower - Rubeckia

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    Rubeckia is known as coneflower or Black-eyed Susan. All types of rubeckia are native to North America and many species are cultivated in gardens for their showy yellow or gold flower heads.

    They are perennial plants with flowers like look daisy-like around a cone-shaped head. Colors range from bright yellow to orange. The dried flower heads when boiled with water will produce a brownish green dye bath. Adding the leaves and stems to the dye bath will produce a golden hue.

    They are easy to start...MORE from seed and come back every year!

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  • 10 of 26

    Dandelion Roots

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    Dandelions, Taraxacum, are native to Eurasia and North America. They are characterized by bright yellow flowers and leaves with a ragged sawtooth look and a deep tap root. The flowers are open during the day and close at night. Seeds are distributed from a fluffy round head with parachutes that break off and drift away.

    Dandelion roots when boiled in water will produce a warm brown dye. Dandelion flowers produce a yellow dye bath. If you have trouble finding dandelions, please contact me and you...MORE can come dig them out of my lawn.

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  • 11 of 26


    Nicolas Xanthos/Eye Em/Getty Images

    To use fennel as a brown dye, you will need the leaves and flowers of the plant not the edible bulb sold in grocery stores. Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, is a hardy, perennial herb, with yellow flowers and feathery leaves.

    To create a dye bath, boil the flowers and leaves with water. The dye will be a yellowish-brown. Dried fennel seeds can also be used when boiled with water but will produce a very pale dye.

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    Goldenrod Shoots

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    While goldenrod flowers can produce a yellow dye, goldenrod shoots gathered in early spring will make a deep brown dye when boiled in water.

    Goldenrod, Solidago, is a very common wildflower found throughout. There are over 50 species of goldenrod and most of them are very similar and hard to tell apart.

    All goldenrods are late bloomers, flowering in late summer into the fall. They are all perennials with large clusters of small yellow flowers. Most species propagate by a spreading root system in...MORE addition to seed.

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    Mark Bolton

    Hollyhocks, Alcea, bloom in a rainbow of colors - pink, purple, orange, yellow, white. They are popular garden ornamental plants and are drought resistant, and do well in full sun locations that might be too hot or dry for other plants. They produce large, flat coin-shaped seeds that grow easily because each plant only lasts for one or two seasons.

    To create a brown dye bath, gather the petals of any color hollyhock flower and boil with water.

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    Ivy Twigs

    Ivy Twigs
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    There are dozens of different types of ivy, Hedera, found around the world. The majority of these vines are prolific and grow easily. Gather the twigs and stems of any ivy to create a yellowish brown dye bath.

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  • 15 of 26

    Juniper Berries

    Juniper berries
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    Even though ripe juniper "berries" are blue, they can create a nice brown dye when boiled in water. The juniper berry is actually the female seed cone produced by various species of junipers. The cone has unusually fleshy and merged scales, which give it a berry-like appearance.

    Juniper berries are often used in European cooking and to flavor gin. The outer scales of the berries are relatively flavourless, so the berries are almost always at least lightly crushed before being used as a...MORE spice. They are used both fresh and dried, but their flavor declines during drying and storage. Fresh or dried berries can be used to produce dye.

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    Maple Tree Buds

    Univ. of Georgia.


    Every spring, maple trees put forth red buds where leaves will eventually form. If you are looking for a reddish-brown dye, gather these buds. By boiling them, you'll have a great dye...your tree won't have as many leaves, but they'll come back next year!

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    Oak Acorns

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    Acorns from the might oak will produce a brown dye when boiled. You can create different shades of brown by using acorns from different types of oaks - white oak, turkey oak, live oaks.

    Use both the acorns and the caps to create the dye bath.

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    Oak Bark

    oak bark
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    From the oak tree, use the bark to create a light brown or tan dye. Any type of oak bark will produce the dye. Gather the bark and boil to extract the dye.

    The oak tree family, Quercus, includes as many as 600 species, found chiefly in north temperate zones. The bark of oaks has been used in medicine, in tanning as well as for dyes.

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    Pine Bark

    Pine bark
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    The bark from pine trees will produce a light medium brown. Different species of pine will produce slightly different shades of brown. The bark of most pines is thick and scaly, but some species have thin, flaking bark. Gather the bark and boil with water to extract the dye.

    Pines are trees in the genus Pinus. There are about 115 species of pine. Pines are native to most of the Northern Hemisphere and are evergreen, resinous trees.

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    St. John's Wort

    st johns wort

    St. John's Wort, Hypericum perforatum, is now known as an over-the-counter treatment for mild depression. But for many years the common St. John's Wort, which can be found in almost every country, the blooms were gathered to create brown dye.

    It is a perennial plant with extensive, creeping rhizomes. Its stems are erect and the leaves are yellow-green. The flowers have five petals and are bright yellow with conspicuous black dots. The flowers appear between late spring and early to mid...MORE summer. The blooms should be gathered to create a brown dye bath.

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    Sumac Leaves

    Frank Lukasseck

    Sumacs, Rhus, grow in subtropical and temperate regions throughout the world, especially in Africa and North America. They propagate easily and can become a nuisance shrub or small tree.

    Almost every part of the common sumac plant can be used to create dye. It is the leaves that will produce a tan or very light brown dye. The leaves yield tannin. Leather tanned with sumac is flexible, light in weight, and light in color. One type of leather made with sumac tannins is morocco leather.

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    Tea Leaves

    tea leaves
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    The same component in tea - tannin - that causes stains can also be used to create shades from ecru to a warm light brown.

    Dyeing with tea leaves can be done by brewing tea and using the hot tea as the dye bath. The darker the dried tea leaves, the darker the dye. Tea bags are a handy way to create dye that needs no straining but loose leaves can also be used.

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    Walnut Hulls

    walnut hulls
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    To get a strong dark brown to black dye, you'll have to find a walnut tree not just a bag of walnuts at the grocery store. The walnuts in a shell that are found at the store grow in an outer hull or husk while on the tree. It is the husk/hull that will produce a black dye.

    The walnut tree, Juglans regia, is a large, deciduous tree. It is a light-demanding species, requiring full sun to grow well. The leaves are alternately arranged with 5–9 leaflets paired alternately with one terminal...MORE leaflet. The female flowers are in clusters of two to five, ripening in the autumn into a fruit with a green, semifleshy husk and a brown, corrugated nut. The whole fruit, including the husk, falls in autumn. The seed (nut) is large, with a relatively thin shell with a rich flavor.

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    White Maple Bark

    Univ. of Georgia.

    The white maple, Acer saccharinum, is also called creek maple, river maple, silverleaf maple, soft maple, water maple or silver maple. It is a species of maple native to eastern North America in the eastern United States and Canada and one of the most common trees in the United States.

    On mature trunks, the bark is gray and shaggy. On branches and young trunks, the bark is smooth and silvery gray. Collect the bark and boil in water to extract a dye that will produce a light brown to buff color....MORE You will need to use alum to set the dye permanently.

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    Wild Plum Root

    sloe plum
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    The wild plum is a shrub or small tree that is also known as American plum, American wild plum, sandhill plum, Osage plum, river plum, sand cherry, thorn plum, wild yellow plum, red plum, August plum, goose plum, hog plum or sloe plum. Wild plum, Prunus americana, is usually found in thickets. The range is from Massachusetts west to Manitoba and Montana, south to Utah, Colorado, and Oklahoma, east to Florida, and north to New York.

    The fruit of the wild plum is used today for jellies and...MORE desserts; but the bark and roots were often used by Native Americans for their medicinal properties. The Cheyenne mixed the crushed fruits of the wild plum with salt to treat mouth disease. They also crushed and boiled the small rootlets and the bark of older wild plum with the roots of the scarlet thorn as a diarrhea remedy. The Mesquakies used the root bark of the wild plum to cure canker sores around the mouth. The various species of wild plum are astringent and sedative, and the bark is a tonic. The roots and bark contain a bitter substance as well as a substance called phloretin, which is an active agent against gram positive and negative bacteria. The roots will also give a reddish or rusty brown dye when boiled in water.

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    Yellow Dock

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    Yellow Dock, Rumex crispus, is also known as curly dock, sour dock or narrow dock. It is a widespread naturalized plant throughout the temperate world including North America, southern South America, New Zealand and parts of Australia.

    The leaves, flowers and seeds, when boiled in water, produce varying shades of brown dye.

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