Are Organic Dyes Natural? - Darn Good Yarn

Are Organic Dyes Natural?

Written by Kate Curry

Natural vs Organic

Not all dyes are created equal! In our daily lives, the majority of our fabric is dyed using synthetic dyes. Once in a blue moon you’ll see a product being advertised as dyed ‘naturally’ or made with ‘organic dyes’, but what does that mean? Are natural organic dyes better than synthetic dyes? 

Firstly, we need to cover the difference between ‘natural‘ and ‘organic’. Anything that is natural is made or exists in nature, not made by humans. Anything organic is an item (usually food or fiber) that is created without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers - totally clean. Everything that is organic is natural, but not everything that is natural is organic! 

 Natural dyes that are used today are derived from plants, fruits, veggies, minerals, and bugs. These are the same dyes that our ancestors have been using for thousands of years. These pigments are then boiled to create the liquid that the fabric can be dipped in to create the color. 

Two Indian men are standing in the co-op dye room. In the center of the room are vats filled with hot, boiling dye and metal pipes that yarn is hung over. The two men are each holding a side of a metal pole that has three skeins of pink, steaming yarn hanging off it.

Compared to synthetic dyes, natural dyes do not contain any chemicals and are a more eco-friendly alternative. Synthetic dyes may last longer, but they can contain dangerous chemicals that can cause death, damage, or cancer to humans and other animals. Natural dyes, although a bit more expensive, are the safest alternative and are often hypoallergenic since they have no chemicals that can irritate the skin. (This is not true for all plants - please don’t go making poison ivy dye!) 

Straight From The Source!

If you’re interested in organic dye, you’re going to have to go all the way back to the source and ask questions. For example, our DK Weight Naturally Herbal Dyed Yarn is hand dyed by our artisans out of flowers and herbs. Our artisans harvest these natural indigo, eucalyptus, pterocarpus marsupium, hibiscus flowers, and rose petals. We do not advertise these as organic - because some of these flowers are almost impossible to grow without the help of fertilizer! Two organic dyed yarns that we offer are our Single Ply Hemp Yarn and our 3-ply Hemp Yarn - which are not only made out of organic materials, but dyed as well! 

Our artisans take care to dye your yarn with naturally derived dyes safely and sustainably! 

An Indian man wearing gloves, goggles, a white shirt, and black pants is stirring a large, boiling dye pot with a large stick.

Natural Dyes For Use At Home!

Dyeing isn’t just for the professionals! You can dye your own yarn and fiber at home! Here’s a list of the dyes you can make at home. 

Red: beetroot or beets 

Orange: carrots or eucalyptus

Yellow: turmeric or paprika

Green: grass, pine needles, or mint leaves 

Blue: indigo or red cabbage 

Purple: purple basil, elderberries, or hibiscus flowers  

Pink: avocados

Brown: onion skin 

Meet the Author

Profile picture of the author, Kate Curry, wearing a dark red Nanda Poncho sitting on concrete stairs in front of brick wall.

Kate has been on the Darn Good Yarn team since 2018.

They have their degree in Creative Art Therapy & Psychology - and like crafting and animals a little too much.