Natural Dyeing at Home: Foods, Plants and More That Make Color

Iviva faces away from you wearing her artwork like a cape
Borders Are Meant To Be Crossed by Iviva Olenick
Iviva Olenick in a sunflower bundle-dyed silk handkerchief.
Iviva Olenick in a sunflower bundle-dyed silk handkerchief.

Event Info

This class will take place on:

  • Sat, June 12, 11am-1pm ET

Create natural colors on fabric using food scraps, plants at home and fallen plant matter collected outside! The instructor will lead you through a bundle dyeing technique, rolling different colorants inside fabric and steaming them to transfer colors onto the fabric. She will also demonstrate and describe methods for dip-dyeing fabrics using some of the same natural materials. You will have the option of trying one or more of these dye baths, too.

Please note: Preparation is required to engage the techniques taught. This may add up to 2-3 hours of your time before class. Please see instructions below within the Required Materials list! If you prefer to watch the demonstration without doing dyeing at home, you can skip the prep!

There are a total of 20 spots open in this small-group workshop.

If you cannot comfortably pay tuition but are interested in taking this class, please consider filling out our financial assistance application here. We will notify you of your scholarship status before the start date of the class.

Required Materials:

  • Silk or Cotton fabric for dyeing
  • A pot designated for dyeing, not to be used for cooking anything you will ingest.
  • Soda ash (1 lb quantity) to scour or wash fabric
  • Alum (1 lb quantity) to use as a mordant
  • Rubber bands
  • A piece of aluminum foil poked with a fork to create small holes. Piece needs to be big enough to fit over your dye pot. This will be used for steaming the fabric.
  • A water source or sink.
  • Food scraps – This can include avocado skins and pits, washed and dried; onion skins; frozen or fresh berries; purple cabbage; beets; turmeric; black beans.
  • Flowers: petals and leaves of any variety—
    • Comfrey: produces a yellowish-green
    • Sunflowers: heads produce blackish-purple
    • Goldenrod: makes yellow
    • Echinacea: makes greenish-yellows
    • Queen Anne’s Lace: makes ivory-yellow
    • Marigolds: yellow
    • Hibiscus: color of dye depends on color of flowers
  • Plant matter: acorns, black walnuts, purpleleaf sand cherry tree leaves (makes a pinkish-purple)
  • Optional: Baking soda and white vinegar. These will shift the Ph of a dye vat and change the color of the resulting dye for purple cabbage and avocado pits and skins.

Instructions for scouring fabric: Dissolve some soda ash in boiling water and let the fabric simmer in the bath for 30 minutes. Dispose of the waste water. Ring out fabric and let dry.

Instructions for mordanting fabric: Dissolve several TBs of alum in boiling water. Allow fabric to simmer in the bath for 45 minutes or longer. Dispose of waste water and ring out fabric gently.

About the Instructor:

Iviva Olenick is a Brooklyn-based artist developing textiles from seed to fiber and dye and textiles as texts. Her work has been exhibited all over the United States, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Museum of Design Atlanta; the Hunterdon Museum, NJ; Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling, NYC; the Center for Book Arts, NYC; the Old Stone House, Brooklyn; Wyckoff House Museum, Brooklyn. Iviva is a faculty member of SVA’s MFA Art Practice program where she teaches Fibers. In addition, she gives artist talks and designs intensive textile-based workshops for museums and universities.

Top image: detail of Iviva Olenick. All images courtesy of the instructor.

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