Natural Dyes | Outlearn Activity Guide

This activity combines natural materials to produce unique stained fabrics. This allows children to better understand natural dyes, their effects and their properties.


  • Blackberries, salt, water and vinegar.
  • Cooking pot and cup (more pots if you want to have more colours).
  • Material (e.g. canvas).
  • String or elastic bands.
  • Small stones.
  • Fire kit : water, gloves and a bucket.


Mash up the blackberries in a large cooking pot (1 cup of salt to 2 cups of berries to 8 cups of water). Boil for about half an hour, making sure that your fabric is damp, then push it with a stick into the cooking pot. Make sure that it is submerged and boil for a further 10 minutes. Take the pot off the fire and leave it to cool. When it is cool, remove the cloth and wring it out. To help fix the dye put into a bucket of very salty water for a further 10 minutes then wring it out and hang it up to dry.

If you want to achieve a tie dye effect, tie little pebbles or stones into the cloth and using string (tie very tight) or elastic bands work well too before submerging the cloth into the dye mixture. Blackberries/elderberries — purple dye, beetroot/red rosehips — red dye, raspberries — pink dye.

You can achieve other colours by mixing 1 cup vinegar to 4 cups water. Add in well chopped ingredients to this mix and boil on the fire for half an hour. You could tear up, use scissors or a pestle and mortar to break down nettles, grass and green leaves to make a green dye.

Safety Tips

Make sure your adhering to best practise with regard to fire management and group management around a fire.