How to Dye Reed

How to Dye Reed. Basket reed and natural materials can be dyed to fit any decor or to look like an antique basket you just found in a flea market.

Choose what color of dye you want to use. Rit dyes are fine for the basic colors, or you can purchase a reed dye from a basket-supply house.

Gather reed you wish to dye and coil loosely. If reed is coiled too tightly, the reed will not dye evenly.

Heat a large pot of water to almost boiling. It's best to use this pan from now on exclusively to dye your reed.

Sprinkle about 1 tbsp. table salt into hot water. This will help the dye set into the reed.

Pour dye into hot water and stir with an old wooden spoon.

Place loosely coiled reed into dye water.

Remove from stove.

Let reed soak until you have your desired color. Check color after 1 minute and every few minutes after that - some colors and brands will "grab" quickly.

Remove reed from dye and rinse with cool water until water runs clear.

Loosen reed coil and hang until completely dry to prevent molding.


Follow directions on commercial basket dye for the best results. To prevent dye from getting all over your kitchen, you can do this outside and rinse with the garden hose. Experiment with colors by dipping half of your coil in one color; let dry and then dip the other end in another color for a variegated look. Dye enough reed to do a few baskets. Do all your dyeing in one day to save cleanup time. An old pair of tongs works great to remove reed from dye. Read "How To Stain a Basket" for another way to change the look of your handmade basket.


Dye will stain your clothes, counters, floor and hands. If dyeing reed in your home, cover the floor and counters with a drop cloth and wear rubber gloves to prevent colorful hands. Do not use an aluminum pot to dye reed.

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