Slow Fashion DIY: How to dye with red cabbage


Today I am delighted to have a guest post from Francessca, the talented natural dye artisan behind the British sustainable label ACFD Designs. ACFD stands for A Conscious Fashion Decision, and through her label Francessca brings us unique handcrafted scarfs and accessories, beautifully made with natural dyes and textiles. A perfect place to for the ethically and environmentally conscious shopper to buy something beautiful for themselves. In the following tutorial she shows us a simple method for getting started with natural dyes.

Natural dying with red cabbage

This is a really simple dyeing method that anyone can attempt, I love using red cabbage as instantly you can see results, I often use red cabbage in my own dyeing process to create the Sapphire Rust and Rose Gold Rust scarves.

You will need:

  • Half of a red cabbage
  • Old saucepan
  • Old plastic tongs to stir the dyed fabric
  • A piece of fabric, natural fabrics such as cotton are better as they tend to absorb the dye more, for this tutorial I’ve used a simple organic cotton camisole
  • Water
  • Half a cup of salt to act as a natural fixative
  • Colander and/or sieve

I have mentioned using an old saucepan and tongs and, although I am using no chemicals in the dyeing method, it is probably better to use cooking utensils that you are not planning to use with or around food.

For what I am making today you only need one half of a medium sized red cabbage, you could either make a salad out of the other half or stick it in the freezer for your next dye project.

Red Cabbage Dying Photo 1


Chop the red cabbage into small pieces but beware you will end up with bright purple hands. So you might prefer to wear gloves, but I quite like getting really stuck in.

Once your cabbage is chopped up, put to one side while you make your dye fixative.

In a saucepan add enough water so that it comes up to about three quarters full, into the water add half a cup of salt, place on the hob and bring to the boil.

Once boiled gently fold your fabric into the fixative, and allow to simmer. I would leave the fabric in the saucepan for about an hour as this helps the salt naturally work it’s magic.

When the hour is up carefully remove the fabric using your tongs, place in a colander and when cool, gently wring out the fabric.

Next is the fun part, place your chopped up cabbage into a second saucepan and cover with enough water so that all the cabbage is covered. Again bring to the boil and then leave to simmer for one hour.

You then want to use your sieve and strain off the red cabbage bits and just keep the liquid, return the dyed liquid to the saucepan and add your fabric. Again bring to the boil and then leave to simmer for another hour.

Red Cabbage Dying Photo 2

After the hour, turn off the heat and leave the fabric to soak in the dye bath, you should instantly begin to see the fabric change colour, but remember the longer the fabric is left in the dye, the more intense the colour will be. However, all natural dyes will fade once they have been rinsed and left to dry so bear this in mind.

Once your desired colour has been achieved use your tongs again to carefully remove the fabric, wring it out and rinse under water to remove any stubborn pieces of red cabbage that stick to the fabric.

red Cabbage Dying Photo 3

Then hang out your fabric to dry and wait for the results. I have simply finished off my camisole by dyeing a small section of lace using exactly the same method and hand sewing the lace to the neck of the camisole.

Below are a few other examples of where I have used red cabbage to dye skeins of yarn and the variety in colour that can be achieved.  Moreover, a couple of examples of other natural dyeing ingredients to try; turmeric, red and white onion skins and raspberries.

red Cabbage Dying Photo 4

I feel very grateful to be able to write this blog post for Summer and I hope you all find it useful and believe me it really is easy, I can’t encourage you more to give natural dyeing a go, if not for the environment but for your own satisfaction. I regularly use natural dyeing in my own work and actually I use red cabbage as a natural dye in the Sapphire Rust and Rose Gold Rust scarves, and every time I am overwhelmed with the feeling of satisfaction, it really is the best feeling looking down at something you have created.


Thanks to Francessca for sharing this lovely tutorial with us. Do be sure to pop over to her website to check out some of her intricate designs, especially if you are looking for a unique gift for a loved one. You can also connect with her on TwitterInstagram and Pinterest.


And if Francessca’s wonderful tutorial has inspired your creative side, you might be interested in the special free promotion from Creativebug*. Just click on the image below and enter the code SUMMER2015 (details below)

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*Creativebug is an affiliate of tortoise & lady grey. Should you choose make a purchase I may receive a very small commission (the price is the same for you). I only include affiliate links to products and services which fit within the ethical and sustainability ethos of the blog.

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Photo By: Photo Credits: All photos by Francessca of ACFD Designs