• Kayla Powers

Natural Dye Series - Linen

I get a lot of questions on instagram about natural dyeing and rather than respond to each individual --though I still do a lot of that-- I am going to try to make more regular journal entries with information. A Natural Dye Series!

SO first up is this dye project I did for my friend Libby. Libby has great taste in clothes (and jewelry -- check out her work Goldeluxe!) and she recently bought a pair of linen culottes that were perfect except for the color. They were a little more baby blue than she wanted so she asked if I would dye them for her.

Over-dyeing clothes can be really fun and can totally change the look and feel of a garment. But it can also be really tricky. Especially if the garment was bought second hand. Sometimes even thorough scouring can't get certain stains out which will only be exacerbated by dye. As always with natural dyeing, I think it's smart to approach a project with reasonable expectations and an openness to possibilities.

I'm going to share the process I used here which can apply to all cellulose (plant) based fibers, new or second hand.


  1. WEIGH garment dry (these weighed about 270g)

  2. SCOUR - this is essential for any garment you're dyeing. I used soda ash at 1% WOF (weight of fiber) so 2.7g. I added the soda ash to a great big pot and gently heated for a little over an hour.

  3. RINSE

  4. TANNIN bath. I used Tannic Acid (from chestnut bark) at 15% WOF. Heat a great big pot of water and add tannin. Stir to dissolve. Add wet garment. You can turn off the hear and leave the fabric in the pot for an hour or two. Stir every so often. *NOTE this tannin is a warm brown color and changed the color of the pants significantly. This was fine with me because I was planning to dye a deep red color. But I would not use this if I were aiming for light yellow for example.

  5. RINSE gently.

  6. MORDANT in alum at 15% WOF. Rinse your tannin pot thoroughly. Refill with water. Heat. Add alum and when it fully dissolves, add wet garment. Hold at temp (hot but not boiling) for about an hour.

  7. RINSE

  8. DYE! I dyed these with madder root (one of my favorite dye plants). I didn't weigh my dye materials but a standard ratio is 1:1 WOF to dye stuffs. Another tricky thing about over-dyeing a second hand garment is you won't have a test swatch. So, again, embrace the possibilities!

  9. CARE for your garment gently. Hand wash if possible. Line dry. This is the best way to preserve the color and fiber of our clothing.

That is a very brief overview but hopefully it will give you some jumping off points. If nothing else, it will give you the key words to google on your journey! I always recommend getting yourself a book. Maybe that will be the next post in my Natural Dye Series :)

Leave any questions in the comments or email me at kayla@salttextilestudios.com <3

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