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To dye for….

15 May

Having researched how to make plant based dyes, I decided to put the knowledge to good use.

Using simple printer paper and the plants found in my garden I was able to create some home dyed papers in some fantastic colours:

Here’s how I did it:

Take 2 table spoons or more of plant material (see links at the bottom of this post) and place in a microwavable dish.  Placed enough water in the dish to ensure all the plant material is covered.  Cover the dish with the lid and microwave on full power for 2 minutes and then at 60% power for a further 20 minutes.  If the dye doesn’t seem strong, try another 20 minutes at 60%.

Remove the dish from the microwave and strain the water into a washing up bowl, big enough to take a sheet of paper.

Place the paper in the water and swill so that the paper is soaked.  The length of time the paper should be left in varies according to the strength of colour required.  The best thing to do is experiment.

The following photo shows two colours and paper left in the dye for different times.  The stronger the colour the longer you need to leave the paper in:


Remove the paper and place on an old towel to dry.  When the paper is no longer soaked, but not quite dry, transfer to a flat surface to continue drying or hang on a line or radiator.

Once the paper is dry it can then be ironed flat which also makes the paper soft again.

The resulting coloured paper can be used for book making, journaling or other paper related experiments.

 You can also experiment with dyeing techniques.  Here is paper that has been dyed different colours on each side:

You can also try painting, splashing and other application techniques to produce great effects.  I had experimented with taking the actual material and placing it on the paper to leave it’s dye imprint.  This works especially well with grass as it gives a very japanese feel.  Try it and see.

You can find a list of plants that make good dyes and the colours the produce at Pioneer Thinking, though this article mainly concerns cloth dyeing and it is woth noting that for paper dyeing you need not bother with fixatives and such.

And for the plants I used for my paper:

Left to right – 

Grass short dye time (yellow/green)
Iris Root (gray)
Grass long dye time (vivid yellow/green)
Coffee (buff to tan depending on the length of dye time)
Blackberry & Blackcurrent (blue/gray or ‘I just washed a white shirt with jeans’ colour)
Raspberry & Redcurrent (pale pink)
Blueberry long dye time (dark blue)
Blueberry short dye time (light blue)

I also tried dock root, which gave the exact same colour as grass, and dandelion petals, which is supposed to give vivid yellow but didn’t produce anything.  I suspect I didn’t use enough.

If you are going to try this project, I highly recommend starting with grass as it is the easiest to produce and gives the best results.  Also let me know and send us your finished pictures at kukachoo [at]