Plant Magic II: Foraging for Natural Fabric Dyes | Amy Plante | Skillshare

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Plant Magic II: Foraging for Natural Fabric Dyes

teacher avatar Amy Plante, Multi-Passionate Creative

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Class Project


    • 3.

      Prepping for Dyeing


    • 4.

      Sustainable Foraging


    • 5.

      Brewing Natural Dyes


    • 6.

      Drying + Storing Dyes


    • 7.



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About This Class

Learn the magical art of foraging and brewing your own natural fabric dyes! This beginner-friendly class covers the process of foraging for plants and transforming them into eco-friendly fabric dyes step by step.

Whether you live in a concrete-covered city, the rural countryside, or somewhere in between, you can become a natural dyer. All you need is curiosity and the willingness to explore your neighborhood with a new perspective.

Natural dyes give fabric a tactile softness and unique depth of color that you just can’t achieve with synthetic dyes. Another reason I love this craft is that nothing is wasted; the dye matter is compostable and the water we use can be returned to the earth, creating a sustainable closed loop system.

By the end of this class you'll have learned how to:

  • Forage for plants sustainably and grow a dye garden
  • Prepare your fabric for dyeing with the right tools and materials
  • Brew your own natural dye from scratch
  • Dry and store dye materials so you can practice year round

If you’re ready to tap the colorful potential of plants and make some magic, come dye with me!

Meet Your Teacher

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Amy Plante

Multi-Passionate Creative

Top Teacher

Hello, I'm Amy. I'm a multi-passionate creative, which is just a fancy way of saying I've never met an art technique or craft I didn't like! A few of my favorite skills are painting, illustration, sewing, and fabric dyeing.

I've always loved picking up new skills and teaching others what I've learned. My approach is always to keep it simple and let my students impress themselves with what they can do.

Follow me on Instagram to see what I'm up to with my own work and be sure to tag me when you share your projects!

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Level: Beginner

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1. Welcome!: Whether you live in a concrete covered city, the rural countryside, or somewhere in-between, you can become a natural dire. All you need is curiosity and the willingness to explore your neighborhood with a new perspective. Hi, my name is Amy Plante and I'll be showing you the magical art of foraging and brewing natural fabric dyes. I'm a multi passionate, creative, and I've been working with plant-based dyes for about ten years now. In my first plant magic course, I shared a bit about how I came to the art of natural dying after learning about the harmful impact of fashion and textile industries have on the planet, what started as a personal challenge to practice more sustainably, quickly developed into a fun passion. I've come to fall in love with this process. From the collecting of natural materials to this low extraction of dye, to this sometimes surprising final result. I'm excited to share it all with you in this course. Natural dyes give fabric a tactile softness and unique depth of color that you just can't achieve with synthetic dyes. Another reason I love this craft is that nothing is wasted. The diameter is compostable and the water reuse can be returned to the Earth, creating a sustainable closed loop system. This is a beginner friendly class. We'll cover sustainable foraging, growing a dye garden, and how to dye the natural way step-by-step. By the end of the course, you'll have all the foundational knowledge you need to collect and dye with plants. If you're ready to tap the colorful potential of plants and make some magic, come dye with me. 2. Class Project: Class project. In this class, I'll show you how to brew natural dye from scratch using plants that you forge for in the wild or in your garden. And then how to use that dye on silk. The reason I'm using silk for this project is because it really takes to natural dye. Well, It's easy to achieve excellent results with it. I'll be using recycled, Sorry, silk ribbon, which is a more sustainable and affordable option to most silk fabric. I love this ribbon because it can be used for knitting, weaving, art journaling, or even gift wrapping. If you don't want to use silk, these instructions will also apply to using wool as both silk and wool. Our protein fibers, dying with cotton or linen, which are cellulose fibers, is a slightly different process. So I recommend sticking to silk or wolf or your project. If you'd like to adapt this project to dying with cotton or linen, I recommend starting with my first plant magic course, natural dying in the kitchen. If you want to dye wool yarn for this project, It's a good idea to prepare the yarn by unraveling it into large loops, tying the ends together, and separating the strands into sections by twisting a small piece of yarn into figure eights around each section. This will prevent the yarn from getting tangled during the dye process. To begin this project, I'll show you what tools and equipment you'll need, as well as how to prepare your fabric for dying using the all-important scouring and more denting processes. Then I'll share with you the best practices for foraging sustainably, along with my tips for growing your own dye garden. Next, we'll brew a batch of natural dye with the material we've collected and dire fabric. Finally, I'll share with you some tips for drawing in storing dye materials so you can use them year round. Participating in this project, we'll get you reacquainted with your neighborhood in the environment that surrounds you, you'll begin to see plants with fresh eyes and more curiosity. I encourage you to take me and your fellow students on that journey with you by sharing photos of your process in the project gallery. In this way, we can all learn from each other. In the next lesson, I'll show you how to prepare your toolbox and your fabric for the natural dye process. 3. Prepping for Dyeing: Prepping for dying. Before we begin brewing our fabric dye will need to make sure we have the right equipment, as well as ensuring our fabric is prepped for dying. One of the most important rules to follow is that the tools and equipment used for dying should only be used for dying. Don't use tools. You also cook with Morton's and even some of the plants you'll use in this process, though gentle on the planet, are not safe for consumption. So it's important to have dedicated equipment for this craft. This is a great opportunity to retire old pots or wooden spoons and give them a second life and your fabric dyeing adventures. You can also find a lot of these items in thrift stores secondhand. So there's no need to spend a lot of money to get started with natural dying. At a minimum, you'll need a large stainless steel or ceramic coated pot of large spoon or pair of tongs. A massive or strainer, one or two large buckets, a selection of glass jars, and a pair of kitchen gloves. If you're working inside, you'll also want a high-quality mask for when you're handling powdered Morton's. I would also recommend a set of measuring spoons or digital scale for getting more precise amounts with your dyes. And Morton's, though, you may prefer to eyeball everything in experiment through trial and error, which I also think is a valid and useful way to learn. You can find all my recommended tools and the downloadable guide that accompanies this class. When you've assembled all your tools, you'll need to start by prepping your fabric for dying. The process I'm going to share with you is tailored to dying with protein fibers like silk and wool. The main difference between working with protein fibers versus cellulose fibers is that protein fibers needed gentler approach. Cotton and linen can sign up to vigorous boiling, but we'll can become matted and silicon break down. So bear that in mind when you work with them. The first step with propping herself is to scour it. That sounds like an aggressive term, but essentially we're just giving the fabric good wash, fill a pot or bucket with warm water and add a tablespoon of eco-friendly detergent. Mixing the silk and leave it to steep about 8 h or overnight. Thoroughly rinse the fabric in warm water until the water runs clear and hanging to dry. Scouring removed sizing and any coding that might repel your dye. So it's normal for your scouring bath to be yellow or brown. You're now ready to mourn at your fabric. More testing is an essential step in the dying process. Without a Morton, your dye may not stick to the fibers and it will be less vibrant and much less permanent. There are certain natural dyes, such as those from bark that are rich in tannins. Tannin in itself acts as a mordant. Dyes with lots of tannin don't necessarily need additional Morton's. However, you will find that even when working with a tan and rich dye, using an additional Morton will make your colors richer and much more permanent. I strongly encourage you not to skip this step if you want great results with your dye. We're going to Morton are silk with something called alum. When you go to buy alum, you may come across two different kinds, aluminum sulfate and potassium aluminum sulfate. Some diaries claim potassium aluminum sulfate yields better results, but both work well and protein fibers and it's up to you which one you use. I have a good quality iron free aluminum sulfate on hand. So it's what I'll be demonstrating with for this lesson. In the downloadable guide, I provided links to reputable suppliers of Morton's to help you out. So let's get to it. If you're more detail, right after you've scoured your fabric, it will already be wet and ready to go. If your fabric is since dried, you'll need to soak it in water for about an hour to get it really wet for the more editing stage. To begin, fill your dye pot with water in a glass jar, measure out your alum. The weight of the alchemy used should be about 10% of the weight of your fabric. For a pound of fabric, this works out to about three tablespoons. It can be difficult to know the weight of your fabric, but when you go to buy it either printed on the end of the bolt or written in the online listing. It should say the weight per square yard. So you can use that as an estimate. It's okay if your measurement isn't perfectly precise, just keep in mind that a little goes a long way with alum and you won't need much. Boil a cup or so of water and add it to the jar. Stir the alum until it is dissolved and then store it into a pot of water. Add your web fabric and turn on the stove to slowly bring everything to a simmer. Simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally, and then leave to cool in the pot overnight. The next day, rinse out your fabric and hanged too dry, or proceed to the dying step. You can pour your morning bath on acid loving plants in your garden or neutralize it with soda ash first to balance the pH. When it comes to printing and dyeing fabric, everyone will tell you that the fabric needs enough room to flow freely in the pot for the best results. Admittedly, I am terrible at following this rule. I would much rather use less water and cram and more fabric so I can dye as much as possible in one go. This results in fabric that is more modeled and textured effects that I personally find very beautiful. If you're looking for pristine, solid color results, however, you're more likely to get them if you have lots of room for your fabric to flow in your pot. Once you've finished the mourning process, you're ready to dye the fabric. You can scour and more than lots of fabric and advance. So you always have some on hand when you get the urge to Bruce him dye. Now we're ready to forage for dye materials. But first let's recap how to prep our fabric. The tools and equipment used for dying should only be used for dying. Don't use things. You also cook with protein fibers like wool and silk need to be treated more gently than cellulose fibers like cotton and linen. Scour your silk to remove any sizing or impurities. Morning the fabric using a solution of alum and gently heat on the stove. Next, they'll give you my best tips for sustainable dye plant foraging. 4. Sustainable Foraging: Sustainable foraging. Let's go over how to find plans for fabric dyeing. There are two ways to collect your own dye materials by growing a dye garden or by foraging for wild growing plants. In both situations, you should be mindful of the environment and the other plants and animals you share it with. An important rule to follow is to only take what you need. You likely will know how much fabric you're dying before you begin this process. And we'll have a rough estimate of how much dye stuff you need. Another important rule to follow is to leave enough for the insects and animals. If you're collecting berries, leave plenty on the branches for the birds and animals that need them for food. If you're collecting flowers, leave enough to keep the bees and other pollinators happy. For materials such as Barker branches, try to only collect things that have dropped on the ground to avoid damaging the tree. Don't strip a plant completely of its leaves, but rather pick a few from several different plants so as not to do permanent damage. Also be sure to never forage on conservation land or other protected areas. It's important that we be mindful of where and when we gather plants. By being respectful of the ecosystem, we can ensure that there'll be plenty to forage year after year. Even if you live in a city, you may be surprised, but what you can find once you start looking for dye plants, the flower I'll be demonstrating the dye process with golden rod is considered a weed and grows everywhere from vacant lots to the sides of highways. It produces a stunning yellow hue and dye form. Even though it's a weed, I always make sure to leave some blossoms for pollinating insects because they really seem to love it. If you have a backyard or small balcony that you can keep container plants on, you may choose to plant a dye garden. What you're able to grow will depend on your regional climate. Research the native plants near you and experiment with cultivating them. Some plants that are excellent for dyeing might be invasive where you live. So just be mindful of that when you plant. I have some space on my deck to grow plants in containers. This year decided to grow Korean and Japanese indigo, which do well here in the Northeastern US where I live. I've included a broad list of dye plants and the downloadable guide that accompanies this class. But to get some inspiration on which plants do well where you live, I highly recommend the book, natural palettes, inspiration from plant-based color by Sasha Durer. It reads as a kind of color encyclopedia for natural dyes and covers plans from several different kinds of environments, including tropical, desert, coastal, and temperate. It's a great place to start to spark your research. I also recommend having a plant guides specific to your location so you can easily identify plants you find and learn about poisonous plants so you can stay away from them. Before we move on to the dye process, Let's quickly go over the best practices for sustainable foraging. When foraging in the wild, only take what you need. Always leave enough for insects and animals to eat. Try growing your own di plants in containers or your garden. Research the plants native to your region for the best results. Now let's move on to brewing natural dyes. 5. Brewing Natural Dyes: Brewing natural dyes. Let's spur a batch of natural dye. I'm going to show you this process with golden rod flowers, but the steps are more or less the same for any fresh plant material. First, I'll gather the flowers. Since I'm only dying a small amount of fabric, I won't need much. You'll want to make sure your flowers are free of bugs, either by rinsing them outside or by dunking them in water and then pouring it out to release any clean insects. Now you can put your flowers in your dye pot and add water. The amount of diode brew depends on how much fabric you're dying and how strong you want your dye to be. In general, the weight of your dye material and fabric should be equal a one-to-one ratio. When I'm working with fresh material, I just do it by eye. Natural dying requires a certain degree of experimentation and making mistakes. I could give you the exact measurements for something. And depending on 100 different variables, your dye would still likely come out different than mine. So don't sweat it. The more you practice, the more you'll learn. When I'm dying with fresh flowers, I like to start with them in a cold pot. Turn on your stove and gently bring your bat to a delicate summer. When you're working with hardier dye, stuff like nuts and roots, you can be a little more aggressive with your heat. However, when working with fresh flowers, it pays to be patient and delicate with your heat. I like to bring the flowers solely of temperature with the water to coax the color out, rather than waiting until the water is hot before adding the dye materials, as I do with dried plants. If you're working with something other than flowers which can be added to your pot as is, you may need to break down the material to extract the color better. Roots and leaves should be torn and Barry should be crushed. Nuts embark can be used hole in, simmered more aggressively to extract the color. Once your flowers have been simmering for about 45 min, you'll want to start checking on your dye color by dipping a swatch of fabric into the vat. In general, it takes about an hour of simmering to fully extract the dye, but this can vary, so it's good to just keep an eye on it. When you're happy with the color, turn off the heat. If you want to push the color even further, you can experiment with leaving the flowers in the pot to cool overnight. However, for this fat, I'm happy with the color. I've got. Remove the flowers and strain the dye using a cheese cloth for the purest fat. If you're at all hesitant be safe and wait until the dye bath is cooled. Before doing this step, you can start soaking your fabric in preparation for dying while you wait. The extra cautious if you choose to handle hot liquid, it can get messy. So work outside if you can put your strain dye back into the pot and bring it up to a simmer. Add your wet premorbid and fabric to the dye bath and gently simmer for an hour or until you're happy with the color. Turn off the heat and optionally leave your fabric to soak overnight or up to two days. This will deepen and mature the color. Remember that when wet, the fabric will look several shades darker than it will dry. So keep that in mind when gauging the color. The last step is to thoroughly rinse the fabric of excess dye and hang it to dry. Remember not to waste your dye bath by pouring it down the sink. One of the many wonderful things about dying with natural materials is that you can reuse the water to hydrate your plants both indoors and outside. If your dye bath is still rich in color after you've used it, you may want to store in jars and reuse it for another dye project. The spent time material from earlier, it can be composted. Nothing in this art form goes to waste. Remember to document your process from looking for DEI plans to dye your fabric and upload your photos to the project gallery. I can't wait to see what you've created. So let's recap the natural dying process. Make sure your dye materials are free from bugs and dirt before adding to your dye bath, use a one-to-one ratio of fabric to dice tough to know how much dye to brew. Slowly bring your flowers up to a simmer, then keep the heat steady for an hour to extract the dye, strain out the dye material and return the dye to the pot, bring the dye backup to a simmer, add your wet pre-mortem did fabric and simmer for an hour. Leave your fabric to cool in the pot until it reaches the desired shade. Thoroughly rinse the fabric and hanging to dry. Remember to recycle your dye by watering your plants or storing it in a jar for later use. Next, I'll show you how to dry in store plants so you can dye with them year round. 6. Drying + Storing Dyes: Drying and storing dyes. If you want to be able to work with plant dyes regardless of the season, drawing will be your friend. Nearly every flower, leaf, root or not that is suitable for dying is also suitable for drying. The key to properly storing dye materials is to make sure they're absolutely free from moisture before you put them in a jar or container. For flowers with delicate petals like Cory, ah, psis, the pinch them off at the head is they bloom and lay them on a drying rack. I made my own out of tool netting and embroidery hoop. But you could also use an old window screen or pre-made drying rack designed for this purpose. Just make sure the flowers are getting 360 degrees of airflow and keep them away from moisture. For flowers that are hardier like amaranth, I'll cut them at the stock and bundle them into small bouquets that can be hung upside down to dry. Use elastic bands to tire bundles as the stems will shrink as they dry and the elastic shrinks with them, keeping them together. For materials such as gall nuts and avocado pits, I'll lay them out on a tray, ideally under a hot sun to dry. Avocado pits, especially retain moisture. So I'll wait as long as possible, usually weeks or months at a time before putting them in a jar to store. This will prevent them from getting moldy. When your materials are completely dry. Glass jars make ideal storage. Store them in a cool dark place. For dried flower bundles. You can also store them in paper bags if you prefer. Dying with dried flowers should give you the same or similar results to drawing with fresh flowers. But I encourage you to try both and compare your results to see if there's a difference. Natural dying can be unpredictable and lead to some fun surprises. I encourage you to be open to the fluid nature of this art form and embrace the unexpected when you practice it. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out in the class discussion board so everyone can benefit and learn together. 7. Congratulations!: Congratulations on completing this class. Now that you've learned the process of natural dying, you'll be able to explore and experiment with all sorts of plants and organic materials. Over the course of this class we covered which tools and equipment you need to get started. How to scour in Morton at your fabric to prepare it for dying. The best practices for foraging sustainably and growing your own dye garden. How to brew batch of natural dye with the material you've collected and dye fabric with it, and how to dry in store dye materials so you can use them year-round. Now that you've started to look around your local environment from a new perspective. I hope you continue to stay curious about the plants E Find, keep a diary, journal of fabric swatches, illustrations and photos to create your very own encyclopedia of your foraging and dying adventures. If you share your experience on social media, be sure to tag me on Instagram and TikTok at art dot, which underscore so I can cheer you on your journey. As always, keep in touch and happy dying.