the colour of food: homemade fabric dyes

July 29, 2013  in food styling, homemade

Sania Pell Homemade Natural Dyes

The photos of vegetables in Singapore in my last post reminded me of these photos that I took last year and have been meaning to post. It must be my printed textile background coming back to me, because one day I had the urge to experiment with natural colour and play with food and fabric. I popped to the supermarket and worked on the theory that if it stains clothes (mine occasionally but mainly my children’s!) then it may have a longer-lasting dye quality. So I bought beetroot, red onions, blackberries, red cabbage and pomegranate and I had lots of other possibilities in the cupboards at home to test out too.

Homemade natural fruit dye by Sania Pell

Homemade natural Beetroot dye by Sania Pell

Homemade natural Beetroot dye by Sania Pell

I did some research and found it wasn’t really as simple or as easy as I had hoped to fix the natural colours permanently, chemical dyes are much easier for this, but I continued anyway. My method was to boil water, add the foodstuff, mix it around to colour the water in a concentrated enough way, sieve it and then add swatches of plain white linen to my homemade ‘dye’. I wet the fabric in clean water before adding the swatch to the dye and left them in soak for varying lengths of time until I liked the colour or it seemed to no longer be darkening. To fix them I added a mixture, in an experimental sense, of vinegar for vegetables and/or salt for berries. I then washed them in cold water first and then hot. The results are below:

Homemade natural fabric dyes by Sania Pell

1- Blackberry, 2- Blackberry and red onion peel, 3- Blackberry and red cabbage, 4- Blackberry and red cabbage, 5- Beetroot (pickled), 6- Beetroot and tea, 7- Spinach, 8- Red onion peel, 9- Pomegranate, 10- Red cabbage, 11- Red cabbage and a pinch of turmeric, 12- Red cabbage and turmeric, 13- Red cabbage, turmeric and vinegar, 14- Red cabbage, tiny amount of turmeric and vinegar, 15- Red cabbage with vinegar, 16- Tea, 17- Coffee, 18- Paprika, 19- Red wine, 20- Red wine and tea, 21- Turmeric, 22- Turmeric with wine, 23- Turmeric with wine and tea, 24- Turmeric small amount

Homemade natural fabric dyes by Sania Pell

Homemade tumeric fabric dye by Sania Pell

Homemade natural dyes by Sania Pell

Homemade natural colour dyes by Sania Pell

I don’t think there would be much possibility in colouring large enough quantities of fabric in a colourfast way to make cushions or throws, but I love the colours I made with this experiment and mixed a few together to give new combinations.

Homemade natural dyes by Sania Pell

Homemade red onion dye by Sania Pell

Homemade pomegranate dye by Sania Pell

Homemade pomegranate dye by Sania Pell

Homemade fruit and vegetable fabric dyes by Sania Pell

It was fun experimenting with food and fabric, especially knowing that it was all completely natural, and I was pleased with the gentle colour results I achieved.

And luckily I didn’t get any on my clothes! 🙂


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  1. Celia says:

    The colours are subtle and beautiful – I love the combination of the yellows and mauves – like spring flowers.
    Love those little number labels too 🙂

  2. These are such evocative colours, Sania. I think the (almost) acid yellow has to be my favourite!

  3. Great job, love those subtle nuances!
    My favorite is the red onion, a quite surprising shade.
    I experimented with yellow onion peels once, and loved the results, a warm, slightly golden hue.

  4. Beautiful swatches! Funny, i just did a post on berries, and while taking photos I was playing around with berry stains…the biggest surprise being when you wash the cloth with soap, the red stains turn blue, quite an alchemy…
    If you want to find out more, here’s the organic dye guru, India Flint at

  5. […] Dying fabric with vegetables and fruit from Sania Pell at home […]

  6. […] Homemade Natural Dyes Share this:TwitterFacebookPinterestEmailLike this:Like Loading… This entry was posted in Blog and tagged dyes, fabric, food, homemade, Natural by kristawittmann. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  7. Anna says:

    That is so lovely that you did this!
    Reading it made me remember the time when I was little in the early 80’s, when my mum took me out in to the Swedish forest to pick birchleafs and other plants to dye her yarn. I remember that it smelled awful but the result was beautiful!

  8. CC says:

    These are magnificent! Natural dyes just look so…alive – There’s a YouTube video by a particular artist that shows some girls moving around in natural light, wearing some naturally dyed bridesmaid dresses that is just…unbelievably mind-boggling. I wonder what the effect would be under film and stage lighting…because it’s fantastic on the little YouTube player! It really appears to radiate its OWN light!! Even online, in a blog photo, with my crappy computer monitor!

  9. […] specialises in selling naturally-dyed fabrics, or Sania Pell wrote this lovely post explaining how to make your own fabric dyes from berries, vegetables and […]

  10. arlene says:

    I dyed fabrics years ago and we used to simmer our dyepots (with fabric in it)to get stronger colours and hoped they would last longer…

  11. […] blog de cosas bonitas) la referencia a la investigación que realiza Sania Pell en su blog sobre cómo teñir telas con frutas, verduras y otro vegetales. Telas teñidas con diferentes frutas, granadas por […]

  12. Di says:

    What do you do with the Tumeric and White wine? Mix with water and boil or not??

  13. Sharon Followill says:

    These are beautiful and I wanted to learn how to dye fabric with veggies instead of chemicals… still don’t know.

  14. […] you’re a natural gal/guy and don’t want to use synthetic dyes this walk through of some natural dyes is the best. Sania Pell walks you through vegetables, spices, all things […]

  15. Helen Yang says:

    Today, i’m trying to color using onion and blackberry. Happy coloring.

  16. arlee says:

    Most of these food waste dyes are not textile grade, especially with no mordants. Check out an accredited natural dye book, and learn what is fugitive and what is a real dye. Best one that should be mandatory for natural dyers is Joyce Boutrup and Catherine Ellis’s The Art and Science of Natural Dyes.

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Sania Pell freelance interior stylist London.

Sania Pell is a freelance interior stylist, art/creative director and consultant based in London. She is a Contributing Stylist at Elle Decoration magazine, with whom she has worked for over 20 years, and is well known for bringing a unique aspect to photographic shoots for national publications, leading international brands and retailers as well as style consultancy for architects and property developers. She is the author of best-selling book The Homemade Home and The Homemade Home for Children. A trained, former textile designer, Sania is also involved in many multi-disciplinary creative projects.

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