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Dyed in the berry:make your own all-natural tie dye at home

This article appeared in the July 19, 2013 edition of the davis Enterprise.

By Lisa Justice 

Special to the Enterprise  

There’s a rainbow of color available in the produce aisle and with a few simple steps you can preserve this rainbow and tie-dye a shirt, headband or cotton towel.  Spinach and kale can make a verdant green while strawberries, blueberries and blackberries can make pink, blue and purple.  Spices such as turmeric and paprika can create vivid yellows and reds.

You will need one pot and one bowl for each color you want to make, zipper lock bags, water, vinegar, strainers, something to dye (a cotton t-shirt or towel would work well), and fruits, vegetables or spices for making your chosen colors.

The first step is to extract natural color from your raw materials.  Cut larger fruits and greens into smaller pieces and seal them in a zipper lock bag.  You can keep each item separate to get a strong, single color or combine ingredients to experiment with color mixing.

After making sure that the bag is tightly sealed, squeeze the bag with your fingers to break up the plant matter and make liquid pulp.  Then empty your bag into a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Remove the pot from heat and let cool.

When your dye is cool, pour the contents of the pot through a strainer into a bowl.  While you’re waiting for the dye to cool, get your item ready to dye.  If you want a tie-dyed look, use rubber bands to create knots in your shirt or towel.  Or get a skein of white cotton yarn and braid or knot a bracelet, anklet, necklace or bookmark for dyeing.

To make sure the dyes in your final product don’t run and can’t wash out, prepare your dyeable item by soaking it in a pre-dye wash of one part vinegar to four parts water for about an hour.  The vinegar will help the dyes set.

Once your item is soaked and your dyes are cool, you’re ready to get dyeing!  You can dip parts of your item in different colors or immerse your whole item in one color and let it soak.  The longer your item stays in a dye, the deeper the color it will absorb. 

Once your item is your desired color, remove it from the dye and lay it flat to dry.  Don’t untwist or untie a tie-dyed item until it’s completely dry.  You can now wear or use your custom-dyed item with pride!


Explorit’s events:

• Saturday, July 20 Sabreena Britt of the California Waterfowl Association will lead four 30 minute drawing workshops at Explorit at 1:00, 1:45, 2:30 and 3:15.  Free with paid admission to the museum 

• Sunday, August 18 from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m.: Explorit’s Final Blast Family Fun Science Show. Witness chemical genius as UCD faculty provide live chemistry demonstrations, take a ride on a Whymcycle and cool off with a smoothie from Jamba Juice. Try you hand at creating art with a scientific twist and practicing science through art.  Tickets are available now at 

Space is limited so, buy your tickets today for a fun filled afternoon at Explorit. 


Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit  You can also “like” us on Facebook at or follow us on twitter at @ExploritScience.

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