Solar dyes are a fun way to celebrate summer, and my kids and I look forward to this project every year! See directions and video below!


  • Glass pint jar with lid
  • Wax paper for under lid (optional, but if you want to ensure rust does not get on your material this will help)
  • Water
  • Elderberries for the dye (or substitute blackberries)
  • Alum powder (alum sulfate for silk or wool, and alum acetate for cotton)
  • Cotton, wool or silk fabric to dye


1. Fill your jar to 1 inch from top with berries, then pour water on top to cover the berries.  

2. Put the wax paper over the top if you're using it, then screw on the lid.  Place your jar outside in a sunny spot for 3 days.  

3. After 3 days, open your jar and strain out the berries, squishing them a bit to release the color.  Return this dye liquid to your mason jar, and add a teaspoon of alum powder.  

4. Screw on the lid and give it a shake to mix it.  

5. Get the fabric you wish to dye, (you may want to get it wet first so the color will be more even) and put it in your jar with the dye.  

6. Put the lid back on and leave this in the sun for three more days, turning upside down or shaking every now and then.  

7. After 3 days, remove your fabric, give it a rinse with water and hang it to dry.  

I've had success with this method using elderberries, blackberries, black pansies, lobelia blossoms, calendula petals and more.  Have fun with solar dyes - experiment with different berries and flowers for a whole range of color.

To immerse yourself in the beauty of working with natural dyes, join us for our July 23rd workshop "Napkins to Dye For" where we will be using different techniques and dyes from plants and insects found in nature in Santa Barbara County.  Every participant will make herself a gorgeous set of napkins to bring home.

Hope to see you there!

Love, Ashley

Photos by Lauren Ross