Natural Dyes – a 4-H Project

Please forgive me. I am not trying to jump on the natural egg-dyeing bandwagon.  I did that a few years ago… This time, I wanted to share an accomplishment by my eldest pride and joy.

My 12-year old daughter has been in 4-H for nearly 5 years and it has been incredible to watch her self confidence bloom.  Recently, we had our county Presentation Day, and my daughter and her friend decided to do a Natural Dyes project…and they won a Gold, the highest level award offered.

She’ll take it from here…

Natural Dyes Poster

History of Natural Dyes

Natural dyes have a long history beginning with the usage of dyestuffs in China around 2600 BC. In 1856 William Henry Perkin discovered the first synthetic dye. Synthetic dyes slowly spread throughout the world making it hard to find dyes without the use of chemicals.

String - in dye made from cabbage


We used two cups of dyestuff for every fifteen strings of natural yarn. First we individually boiled the dyestuffs with the 2 ½ cups of water. Then we added the fifteen strings of yarn to each pot of dye. We then let the yarn soak in the dye until it had a strong color. After, we laid the strings out on a baking tray to dry. We soon saw the once white yarn had turned into a rainbow of colors.


  • beets
  • brown onion skins
  • turmeric
  • spinach
  • purple cabbage
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • water
  • stove
  • 100% natural yarn

We then dried the strings on our trampoline.  Each color had it’s own texture – with turmeric being the most crumbly.  Cabbage-string was the softest.  If we were going to use dyes like this on fabric that we were going to wear, we would need to do something so that the colors wouldn’t wash out when we did the laundry.  But for now, this worked well and was a really fun project.

strings drying on the trampoline

PS. We did the dishes (my mom didn’t have to!)

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2 Responses to Natural Dyes – a 4-H Project

  1. kasey chang says:

    That is awesome! I love the look of natural dyes and love your “recipe”. Quick question: were all those ingredients combined at the same time? Or can I safely assume each ingredient was for a separate color? Also was the yarn 100% wool? Congratulations (a bit belated but I just found your post) on a terrific project and your prize 🙂

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