Pantry Staples as Natural Dye

by Kimberley McGee
natural dye with beets

No food coloring at the ready? Low on paint? You can use pantry staples to create natural dyes in unusual and stunning shades. 


Homemade paper, crafts from baker’s clay for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day can be painted or baked with strained dye made from spices or vegetables to get deep, natural and festive colors for any holiday.


Make Natural Dye

To create the dye, put a quart of water with two tablespoons of vinegar in a pot. Add the natural dye of your choice. Bring the dye solution to a boil and lower the heat to simmer. Let the dye solution simmer on low heat
for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and strain the dye into a bowl.

Tips to Dye Items

Gently place your chosen material, such as homemade sheets of paper, baker’s clay or other porous material, into the strained dye. Place items in the bowl of natural dye one at a time. Nestle them into the dye so that they are fully covered. 

For slips of paper, slide them into a pan of natural dye and remove quickly. Repeat this process until you arrive at the preferred shade. Create different hues of the same shade for a variegated look. Let them sit for a few seconds to overnight to get the shade you prefer. The longer you leave the items in the dye, the deeper the color. Pull some test items out early to get different shades of gold, purple and pink.

Natural Dyes from Pantry Staples

Play with the measurements until you find the hue that works best for you. Add a cup of water to start for each measurement below. For beets and cabbage, add enough water to cover. The more water you add, the more diluted the shade will be. 

  • Turmeric – 3 tablespoons
  • Coffee – any amount of leftover brew will do
  • Beets – 4 cups of fresh beets or just use the liquid from a
    jar of beets
  • Red cabbage – 4 cups of chopped cabbage.

Dress Them Up

Use a white crayon or anycolor of your choice to draw on the baker’s clay bowls, tokens and trinkets before nestling it in the  strained pantry staples natural dye. Write names, words or draw hearts, flowers, diamonds or other shape
to give the items some bling. This works particulary well with the coffee dye.

You can also add stickers, ribbons and gem dots to the items to dress them up further. Glue dots and add glitter from the top of a bowl to the bottom for an elegant style.

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