Dyes have been made out of natural products for thousands of years. These natural products do not contain harsh chemicals that can damage the environment. Making a homemade natural dye is a process that does not require any special equipment. Everything that is required can be found at the grocery store or even in your own backyard. While the process of making the dye can be time-consuming, it is a creative and beneficial project that is well-suited for making a tie-dyed shirt.
Select what colors you want to have on your tie-dyed shirts. The desired colors will determine which types of berries or plants are required to create the dye. For example, strawberries and cherries make pink, blackberries and crab apple bark make red, onion skins and carrot roots make orange, coffee grounds and walnuts make brown, red cabbage and blueberries make blues and purple, artichoke and spinach make green and crocus and saffron make yellow.
Measure 2 cups of the berries, fruits, nuts or bark you want to use to create the dye, and chop chop them into small pieces. Place them into a medium-sized pot.
Cover the berries, fruits, nuts or bark with 4 cups of water, then bring to a boil. Lower the temperature and allow the dye to simmer for 1 to 2 hours. The color from the plant or berry will escape into the water as it simmers.
Pour the dyed water through a strainer to remove any solid material from the dye.
Soak the shirt in a fixative for 24 hours before placing into the dye. The fixative is a chemical substance that helps the dye set into the fabric. If you do not complete this step, your shirt will be stained rather than dyed and will lose color after washing. For fruit and berry dyes, use 1/2 cup salt and 8 cups water boiled for an hour. For plant material such as bark or roots, use 2 cups of vinegar and 8 cups of water boiled for one hour.
Place the shirt into the dye to begin the dying the fabric. Natural homemade dyes take longer to transfer the color from the dye than commercial fabric dyes. Keep the shirt in the dye for a few hours. The longer the shirt stays in the dye, the darker the color.