Black Beans as a Natural Dye

by Cynthia

Last weekend I took some time for me and had fun experimenting with a natural dye source I have never tried before. Black beans! Yes, that is right, just your ordinary grocery store variety black beans. Mine happened to be organic and were meant for a soup or chili but ended up being tossed into a dye pot. I did some researching around and one is suppose to get a nice blue from black beans. Can you believe that, blue?! I was too excited to try this one out. Blue is a hard to achieve color when it comes to natural dyes. About the only way to get it is with indigo, dyer’s knotweed, and woad. I enjoy dyeing with an indigo vat but the idea of obtaining blue from beans of all things sounded just too intriguing.

I should have remembered that our water is well water and has a lower pH than most people’s tap water. My dye behaved as though I added vinegar to it to shift the color from blue to green. It is a mighty pretty shade of green and I do like it. After all, green can be a tricky color to achieve as well. It’s just that I wanted blue. Below is a picture of the finished yarn.

Yarn dyed with Black Beans

In case any one is interested here is how I got my black bean dye.

I used about 4 cups of black beans and soaked them for a good 48 hours in tap water. They were covered by a good inch to inch and a half of water. I then drained the beans being careful to not let any of the residue at the bottom of the pot pour into my dye pot. To the dye I added one skein of ~4 ounces of wool yarn that I had previously applied an alum mordant to. I then placed this pot in my oven that had just the oven light on and allowed it to sit there for two full days. Occasionally I would gently stir the yarn. After allowing the yarn to sit for 2 days, I rinsed it well and let it air dry.

I am thinking I might try catching some rain water and try this again to see if I can achieve blue. It is raining cats and dogs this weekend so perhaps I should go collect some!

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