Dye-ries: Yellow

botanical dyeing dyeing with plants Eco Dyeing Natural Dyeing

Welcome to my first post in a series of blog posts I’m calling my 'Dye-ries’. As this very average pun suggests, it’s all about dyeing. Botanical dyeing, to be more specific. Each post will feature a different colour. Today I'm focusing on yellow ...sometimes a very loose interpretation of yellow depending on what kind of magic the mordants have worked.

Before I get stuck in, let me say this isn’t an instructional series. It's a visual documentation of my sampling process of various natural dyes and how they react on different natural fibres with a selection of mordants. 

If you'd like to see a breakdown of one of my dyeing processes, have a read of my blog post on dyeing with eucalyptus leaves here . While this is specific to eucalyptus and iron sulphate, the method can be used on a lot of other plants.

Hopefully this post is helpful in it's own way by giving you an idea of the colours possible from various plants, flowers and food and will provide some inspiration to do your own experimenting. 

The details:

I have taken 5 different natural fibres: silk, wool, rayon, cotton and linen. These have been thoroughly pre-washed to remove any sizing/oils/dirt. 

I've divided each length of fabric into 3, and pre-mordanted each length with a different mordant: alum (aluminium sulphate), copper and iron (ferrous sulphate).

When I'm in Australia, I buy my mordants from Kraft Kolour. In New Zealand, I buy them from Hands Craft Store.  I'm not affilliated, I just like the selection offered in these sites. But hey guys... I'm open to sponsorship *unsubtle wink*.

In hindsight, I regret not sectioning off another length for a soy milk mordant. From previous dyeing I've done, I've found it an effective, environmentally friendly alternative to the metal mordants previously listed. 

If you've worked with natural dyes before, you'll have noticed that silk and wool (the protein based fibres) take on stronger results. As soy is a protein, mordanting with soy milk helps give a stronger result to non-protein based fibres.

The results:

All of these dye baths were prepared by submerging the dyestuff in water in stainless steel pots. After bringing to a gentle simmer, I'd let the pots sit for 4+ hours to help develop a stronger colour. I divided the dye into 3 separate pots for each different mordant. I'd recommend straining the solids out before placing the fabric in.

Every photo, the layout of the fabrics are the same.

Left to right: Silk, wool, linen, cotton, rayon

Top row: Alum mordant

Middle row: Copper mordant

Bottom row: Ferrous sulphate mordant

Apologies for the photography quality. I'm by no means a pro at taking pictures or editing pictures, so the colours aren't always 100% accurate. I blame Melbourne weather for changing the natural light quality every 10 minutes as I was shooting these. 


I used the powdered turmeric you can buy at the grocery store.

Turmeric Dye Samples


Picked from the garden

Rosemary Dye Samples

Osage Orange

I purchased a packet of the dried and chopped up wood from Kraft Kolour. It was hard to photograph this colour, but it isn't as golden yellow as this photo suggests. It has more of a green tinge, especially with the copper and ferrous mordants.

This is my favourite result. From previous dyeing with osage orange, I've found it to be strong and colour fast.

Osage Orange Dye Samples


Purchased at Kraft Kolour.

Weld Dye Samples

Pomegranate Skin

Fruit purchased fresh at the grocery store. Pomegranate skin already act as a mordant as well as a dye, so you don't actually need to add another mordant. But for continuity, I used my pre-mordanted fabric swatches.

Pomegranate Skin Dye Sample

Brown Onion Skins:

Rifled through the onion bin at Coles for all the loose skins. I always seem to get patchy results with onion skins, no matter how many skins I use. I wouldn't recommend this dye for clothing worn close to the armpits! 

Brown Onion Skin Dye Samples

Soursop (oxalis) 

This is a common weed in Australia. As a kid, I used to pick this and suck on the sour tasting stem. I had no idea it could be used for dyeing until recently and I'm so stoked because it's bloody PROLIFIC. I didn't use many flowers for these samples, so it's not the strongest result. But with the right amount, I'm sure it'll be very bright and strong - almost highlighter yellow. 

Soursop Dye Samples


I've tried fresh dandelions multiple times with no luck (they're a common weed in Australia), so I tried a packet version of the dried flower heads this time and still didn't have much luck extracting colour. 

Dandelion Dye Samples


There are a lot of other yellow producing botanicals, but due to time and resource limitations, I haven't sampled them all. I've listed a few below that were recommended to me (thanks to the think tank that is my gorgeous Instagram community)

Marigolds, saffron, acacia flowers, carrot tops, goldenrod, ragwort, coreopsis flowers, myrobalan

I also stumbled across this blog post from The Spruce Crafts when doing my research for this post. They've got a great list of plants I haven't mentioned here.

Further reading/viewing:

If you're feeling excited and now want to know ALL OF THE THINGS to do with natural dyeing, I've popped a couple of links below to some of my favourite sources of inspiration. 

Rebecca Desnos - all round dye wizard and has the most gorgeous photography

Samorn Sanixsay - Samorn's Instagram page is an absolute delight in itself but I've linked to the website as there are workshops and beautiful items available.

Otherwise I'll be creating more 'Dye-ries' as time permits. Next on the agenda is pink and purple. I'm particularly excited for these, as they are my favourite colours (aside from black). I'll be sending out an email as each post goes live, so please join my mailing list to keep up to date! You can join up at the bottom on my homepage. 

Thanks for reading!




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  • Stephanie on

    Hi. At the weekend I dyed watercolour paper (which had been soaking in soy milk) with soursop and got brilliant yellow. I’m putting it on the window sill to see if it fades. I’ll let you know. I’m in SA.

  • Katie McGuinness on

    Just dyed w marigolds. Love your careful approach. Thx for sharing. If there are more, Plse put me on that mail list!

  • Linda George on

    So wish you and others would do simple dress shape patterns for kids 4-10years. Big gap in the paper pattern market

  • Liz on

    Really love this post, thank you. I look forward to pink and purple ! :)

  • arlee on

    Lovely results, but unfortunately turmeric is fugitive. There is nothing wrong with mordanting correctly with “metal salts”: alum, iron and copper have been used for aeons for good results, with no historical evidence of dyers, well, dying, from them. As to the Spruce offering natural dye “advice”, HA. Better to invest in any of Jenny Dean’s books, or Catherine Ellis and Joy Boutrup’s “Art and Science of Natural Dyes”. Truly, if you want your dyeing to be natural, sustainable and eco-conscious, best to do it right, from the start, with proven, accurate historically documented methods.

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