eco-dyed scarves

Stephanie from The Crafty Kitty is back today with an eco-friendly textile project! I just melted when I saw the beautiful, dusty autumn pastels she pulled from onion skins, avocados and black beans. I know it is still September, but I am always on the lookout for “grown-up” gifts that kids can make for the holidays, and I think that the hot bundling technique she shares is absolutely perfect! Here’s Stephanie:
Organic Muslin Scarves dyed using onion skins avocado skins and black beans
This year, I have been pushing myself to explore new methods and techniques. I have made a herbal dyed organic voile dress for myself, using some of the same fabric for a dress for my daughter and a herbal dyed organic cotton top also for my daughter, using the herbal dyed fabric in my shop; BUT for the longest time, I have been meaning to dye fabric using natural, eco-friendly materials at home.
I am so pleased to share with you this tutorial for making eco-dyed, organic scarves/headscarves.

  • Base Fabric, such as organic, fairtrade muslin
  • Dye Stuffs, such as onion skins/avocado skins/black beans
  • Pan
  • Steamer
  • Tongs
  • String
  • Plastic pipe
  • rod/bamboo cane
These are example items, you can experiment with different base fabrics and dye stuffs and some of the equipment will vary depending upon the dye method used (see below for more details).
There are a number of different techniques that you can use, but today we are going to focus on two methods: hot bundling and dip dyeing. The preparation of the fabric is the same for both methods, so let’s start with that! Take your washed (don’t use softener) and dried, undyed, organic, fairtrade muslin fabric. Cut two strips of fabric 170cm x 15cm. Sew around the edge with a 1/4″ seam. I left my scarves with a raw edge as I liked the extra texture it added to the scarf. If you prefer to have a finished edge, leave a gap, turn the scarf right side out and then top stitch 1/8″ from the edge, this will also close the turning gap.
organic fairtade muslin scarf ready to be dyed
Plunge your fabric into hot water. This helps to remove any residue and improve uptake of dye.
immersing organic fairtrade scarf in hot water to prepare for dyeing
Let the fabric cool until you are able to handle it, and then squeeze out the extra water.
The first dye technique was introduced to me by a friend, who is a wonderful textile artist. She creates interesting pieces using among other things, the hot bundling technique.
Lay out your damp fabric and arrange your dye stuff along half of the scarf. In this instance I cut triangles out of both white and red onion skins.
using onion skins to create a print on an organic fairtrade muslin scarf
Fold the scarf so the other half is directly on top of the onion skin (or other dye stuff). Take a piece of piping (I used plastic, but I have seen pictures of hot bundles made using sticks. If you use a metal pipe then it will effect the colours that are produced) that will fit in your steamer and roll the fabric around the pipe. Try and roll it quite tightly.
preparing organic scarf for hot bundle technique
Wrap string around the fabric bundle and place it in the steamer basket. Leave it to steam for about an hour. Time can vary depending on the dye stuff you use.
Organic Muslin Scarves ready to be eco printed using onion skins
Allow the fabric to cool, then unwrap, remove dye stuff and leave to dry. The onion skins worked really well using this method, I did have two other attempts with hot bundling, using ivy leaves and rose leaves. The ivy leaves only left a few yellow splotches. The rose leaves were a little bit more interesting and produced a few shades, and there were a few fairly well defined leaf prints, but overall it looked messy. Part of the issue might be the loose weave of the muslin, it might also work better if the fabric has been treated with a mordant.
Organic Muslin Scarves printed using onion skins and hot bundling technique
For the dip dyeing technique, you need to prepare a pot of dye.
For the avocado, you simply peel an avocado (then eat for your lunch!), wash any residual avocado flesh from the skin and then boil it. The result is a pot of mauve coloured dye.
With black beans, simply soak over night (use the beans for a meal the next day!), and simply drain off the water. This produced a black/blue solution.
Take your prepared scarf and wrap it around a rod. Find the centre of the scarf and hang the two ends either side of the rod. Twist and then roll the rod, so that the scarf wraps around it. Allow the ends to immerse in the dye.
dip dyeing organic fairtrade muslin scarf using black beans
If you want to make an ombre scarf, simply leave the scarf to soak up the dye for 20-30minutes and then lower more of the scarf every 20-30 minutes until you get to the last bit of scarf. Take the scarf off off the rod, lower it into the pot and then leave for a further 20-30 minutes. Pull the scarf out, rinse under cool water, squeeze excess water and then leave to dry.
Organic Muslin Scarves dyed using avocado skins to create an ombre effect
Can you believe these beautiful rose tones came from an avocado skin??
For the multicoloured dip dye scarf. I started the same way as with the ombre scarf. The colour of the black bean soaking water, was looking very grey/green, which I thought might be to do with the hard water that we have. So I added a splash of distilled white vinegar, and the colour changed to a brilliant purple. I over dyed part of the ends with this new colour and then took those out and using the rod and the handle on the pan and then took the other end of the scarf and immersed it in the purple. I then tried adding a little bicarbonate of soda, to shift the pH again. This time the colour was a brilliant green. I took just the very centre of the scarf and over dyed it with this colour.
Organic Muslin Scarves dyed black beans, distilled white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda to produce a dip dyed multi colour effect
It is amazing to think that all those tones came from just the soaking water from the black beans and a little experimentation with shifting pH using distilled white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.
All the dye stuff used for these scarves, would other wise be waste, which makes it incredibly accessible and eco friendly. The effluent from the dye pots is not toxic and is also compostable! I didn’t use any mordants with these dyes, so it remains to be seen as to how colour fast they are, and there are always issues with natural dyes being effected by sunlight, so bear this in mind.
The inital research I undertook into natural dyes, mentioned the use of various metals, which produces toxic waste, which I wasn’t keen to do. Whilst researching other methods, I discovered a lady called India Flint, who seems to be a pioneer in using local dye stuffs and non-toxic mordants such as soya milk (!!!), I’ve actually got her two books [eco colour and second skin] on order at the moment, so I decided to wait until they arrive, before I played around with those! They would probably be worth a look, if this tutorial has piqued your interest.
Organic Muslin Scarves dyed using onion skins avocado skins and black beans

My daughter, really loves these scarves, she asked to wear all of them so that she could have long multi-coloured hair!

I am definitely going to try hot bundling with my kids. They will love to collect items from the garden or the forest and lay them out in patterns on the fabric and be interested to see what colours it makes when they get to unwrap the bundles! There is also a technique called cold bundling, which may be even more kid friendly!

I hope you have fun experimenting with natural dyes!

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This post was brought to you by Stephanie!

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9 Responses to eco-dyed scarves

  1. Hi,

    When I rinsed the scarves with cool water, very little dye was removed. I would imagine that a cool hand wash, would produce little fading, but then natural dyes are very susceptible to fading from natural light for example. I don’t think the avocados were purple ones, more a sort of dark green colour. If you send me an email, I can show you a picture of them.

    Best wishes,


  2. These are beautiful! I have a question for you about the dip dyed scarves…. was the dye hot or cold when you put the fabric into it? Does it matter, do you think?

    • Hi Ash, For the avocado, ombre effect, I had the pot on the hob so it was heated throughout the process. For the black beans, I put hot water in with the cold strained bean water and I played around with the pH with the pot on a table, so no additional heat source. So it was probably more like warm water.

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Marigold Haske

I'm Marigold and I like to make stuff. Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky! is a place where I share my love of DIY and working with my hands. You'll find projects for kids and adults that are quirky, fun, artful and functional.You can email me at