WINNER ‘Progress toward circularity’ Marie Claire Sustainability Awards 2023

5 tips for getting started with natural dyes

Ceilidh Chaplin is the founder of Billynou, a sustainable clothing brand that uses naturally dyed textiles to create wardrobe staples that stand out. Read about her top tips for getting started with natural dyes and how you can get into the habit of adding splashes of colour to your fabrics.

To learn more about natural dyes, you can enrol in Ceilidh's course on bundle dyeing with food waste, pick up her e-book about dyeing with onion skin or learn to dye with avocado in this e-book.

Dried plants for natural dyeing on a textile surface

1. Collect your food waste

Things like onion skins, avocados and turmeric are all great things to start with if you just want to have a play around and get a taste for natural dyes.

2. Be open

Be open to surprises and things not going as you expect! Natural dyes are alive, they are literally living colours which means they are sensitive, constantly changing and have plenty of character.

A bundle dyed sheet of fabric with vibrant yellows scattered across

3. Natural fibres go with natural dyes

Choose a natural fibre to dye. Natural dyes will only adhere to natural fibres. Start with something like silk. Silk nearly always takes the colours beautifully; you must treat it gently as it's delicate but I find there is often less preparation involved than with something like linen.

4. Experiment with old clothes

Try revamping an old t-shirt or garment you don't wear any more. Natural dyes are perfect for covering up stains, especially on baby clothes. I also like to use plants with therapeutic qualities for baby clothes. Thinking more about these qualities than the actual colour the plant offers can yield interesting results.

 Wrapped natural dye bundle

5. pH neutral is key

Hand wash your dyed fibres with pH neutral detergent. As I mentioned, natural dyes are alive and often pH sensitive, which can be super fun if you want to play with colour changes but if you want to keep the colours as they are make sure you use neutral detergent.

    To learn in-depth steps on how to naturally dye textiles, see her practical video courses and e-books that teaches you all the fundamentals of this sustainable and enjoyable craft.