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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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Pioggia December 13, 2010 at 8:56 pm

I’d say that is a very nice color, but it certainly contrasts with what other people got with black beans. I tried it too and got a grayish blue.


Cynthia December 14, 2010 at 8:13 pm

The color is beautiful- it makes me think of lichen. Our water can make the natural dyes a bit interesting compared to other people’s results. I look forward to seeing what I get with some rain water. ~Cynthia


Lucy Corrander December 14, 2010 at 6:28 am

It’s a beautiful cross between blue and green on my screen.

What will you do with the yarn?



Cynthia December 14, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Thank you Lucy. :) I do not have plans for it just yet but I do think it would make a beautiful scarf or hat. It is organic merino wool and is so very soft! ~Cynthia


steve December 14, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Just wanted to say that is a lovely shade of green. Can’t wait to see the results with rain water. Should have plenty by now!


Cynthia December 14, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Hi SET- You must be referring to the torrential down pours we keep getting this week! I have some black beans soaking in fresh rain water as I type this up. Fingers crossed this time I get blue! ~Cynthia


Annie's Granny December 16, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Hah! I have a bathroom rug that’s about the shade of blue-green showing on my monitor, and I spilled bleach on it. I’ll never find another like it. I’m tempted to stomp wet black beans into the spots to see if they’d add some color. Nah, I’m sure my dogs would just eat them. Dogs and beans…..not a good mixture ;-)


curio January 27, 2011 at 9:41 am

I’m curious, were those cooked beans or raw beans that you soaked?


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