Natural Dyes for Cloth
activity exercisedemonstrationsuggested grade levels: K- 3

view Idaho achievement standards for this lesson

It was everyday work for pioneers (and Native Americans) to dye material with vegetable and fruit juices or other natural substances. You can dye fabric the same way. Some natural dyes that can be obtained are: light brown, yellow, and orange from onion skins, roots of white mulberry, wood from sumac, roots I from osage orange hedge, and carrots; green from spinach; rose from beets, pokeweed berries, and roots from dogwood; gold from goldenrod flowers; brown from coffee and hulls of black walnut; red from red sumac berries, bloodroot roots, and red raspberries; black from red sumac leaves; blue from red maple and blue ash bark, and blue-berries; purple from red cedar roots.

fruits, vegetables, nuts, leaves, bark (selection depends on desired color) large metal pan stove
white cotton fabric squares or clothing strainer  

Wash your fabric square or article of clothing very well, and rinse thoroughly. Chop leaves, grind roots and stems, or crush berries (what you use depends on the color you wish to achieve). Soak the plant pieces overnight in enough water to cover. Ask an adult to help you boil the mixture slowly for one hour. Strain dye, removing the plant material. Dip cloth in water and wring out. Put cloth in the dye bath and cover. Ask an adult to help you simmer the cloth and dye slowly until material is the desired color. The color will lighten up as it dries. Let the cloth almost dry and then iron it smooth.

Related Lesson Topics:
Geography: Geography Topics

Lesson Plan provided by Dr. Helen Challand and Elizabeth Brandt with permission from Science Activities from A to Z illustrations by Herb Rudd, 2000
Idaho Achievement Standards (as of 7/2001) met by completing this activity: