How to dye yarn with black beans

For less than $6 you can turn white yarn into a beautiful blue hue. If you're interested in trying out natural dyes, beans might be a great place to start!

Who would have thought that the humble black bean could produce such beautiful colors? This is a cheap and (relatively) simple alternative to the complicated indigo dyeing process. For around $6 you can make your own natural dyes and have lots of beans left over for a tasty taco dip! 

Here’s a before and after shot that really shows off the beautiful blue color that beans create.

For less than $6 you can turn white yarn into a beautiful blue hue. If you're interested in trying out natural dyes, beans might be a great place to start!

Some Things To Consider

  • This method doesn’t yield immediate results. It took me three days to dye a few small pieces of fiber. That being said, it’s really satisfying to make your own natural dye. If you’re really busy, set this project aside until you have a little time to enjoy all of the processes involved.
  • Results may vary. Apparently, the pH of your water can cause the bean dye to turn a greenish color rather than blue. I find this variability really cool! It could be a big turn off for someone seeking consistent colors.
  • Alum and safety
    • Alum is a mordant, this means that it:
      • Helps dyes to last longer
      • Creates brighter colors when dyeing
    • Alum is not toxic unless it is ingested in large quantities. That being said, it seems like a lot of dyers use caution when handling alum. To stay on the safe side, I’m making sure that the glass jar I use will not come in contact with food later on.

Finding Testers

For less than $6 you can turn white yarn into a beautiful blue hue. If you're interested in trying out natural dyes, beans might be a great place to start!

I gathered up a bunch of cotton scraps from my workspace to test the dye. I crocheted a swatch with Lily Sugar n’ Cream in the shade Soft Ecru and a 5 mm crochet hook.

Materials

For less than $6 you can turn white yarn into a beautiful blue hue. If you're interested in trying out natural dyes, beans might be a great place to start!

  • 1 cup of black beans I got mine at the grocery store for $1.50. If you aren’t in the United States, you can get these black beans on Amazon. 
  • 2.5 teaspoons of alum powder I picked up this container at a local grocery store for $3.75. You can get the same brand here.
  • Gentle laundry detergent I had All Sulfate Free on hand. You could probably even use a bit of Castile Soap instead.
  • Measuring spoons and measuring cups
  • 2 glass jars One is for soaking beans and dyeing. Another is for dissolving the alum.
  • Strainer 
  • Medium sized bowl (for transferring the bean dye back and forth)
  • Tap water

Part 1: Alum Solution

 Here are the steps I followed:

  1. Add 2 1/2 teaspoons of alum powder to a glass jar.
  2. Add 3 cups of hot water to the jar. Let the alum dissolve
  3. Submerge yarn in the solution. Let it sit for 24 hours

I’m not sure if this is the best way to prepare alum but this is the way that worked for me!

Soaking your yarn in a solution of alum and water should make the dye more colorfast and the blue more vibrant. On my first try at dyeing with black beans I didn’t use alum. The colors faded with one wash and my swatches felt all beany (for lack of a better word).

The suggested amounts of alum powder to add to hot water ranged from 8% to 15% the weight of your yarn in different sources online. My addition of alum is by no means scientific, just a trial and error process.

For less than $6 you can turn white yarn into a beautiful blue hue. If you're interested in trying out natural dyes, beans might be a great place to start!

Part 2: Black Bean Dye

 Here are the steps I followed:

  1. Add 1 cup of black beans to a jar.
  2. Add 2 1/2 cups of water to the jar. Do not stir.
  3. Let the beans soak for 24 hours.
  4. Strain the beans. You can discard them at this point. Rinse out any bean pieces left in the jar. Pour the bean liquid back into the jar.

I’ve read that for more or less color concentration, you can change the ratio of beans to water. This is the ratio that I used.

For less than $6 you can turn white yarn into a beautiful blue hue. If you're interested in trying out natural dyes, beans might be a great place to start!

Part 3: Dyeing The Yarn

 Here are the steps I followed:

  1. After the yarn has been soaked in alum and rinsed, transfer it to the bean dye.
  2. Let the yarn soak for 4 hours.
  3. Wash the yarn with a gentle detergent.
  4. Let the yarn air dry.

For less than $6 you can turn white yarn into a beautiful blue hue. If you're interested in trying out natural dyes, beans might be a great place to start!

Here’s the finished product!

For less than $6 you can turn white yarn into a beautiful blue hue. If you're interested in trying out natural dyes, beans might be a great place to start!

 

For less than $6 you can turn white yarn into a beautiful blue hue. If you're interested in trying out natural dyes, beans might be a great place to start!

A few parting thoughts

 For a beginner like me, black beans are a low entry fee ticket into the world of natural dyes. In the future I’d like to try dyeing with avocado skins & pits, which are said to impart a really pretty blush pink on white material. Let me know if there are any natural dyes that you’ve had success with or what you’d like me to test out next!

Until next time, happy crocheting!

This post contains affiliate links.

 

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2 Replies to “How to dye yarn with black beans”

  1. I tried dyeing with black beans once – it never turned blue. I ended up with a tan/brown color that actually was rather lovely but not what I was aiming for. I’ve always wondered if it was because I used tap water – which has a lot of iron but we also have a salt-based water softener. I’m guessing any of those factors could have affected the final outcome. I hadn’t thought about trying little swatches and samples instead of a full skein of yarn. I may have to do that … along with using filtered water 🙂

    1. That’s really interesting! I saw that soaking yarn in soda ash first produces a tan shade.

      Im convinced that alum brought out this pretty steely blue color. My water is definitely hard.

      I’d like to see if filtered water or even distilled water produces different results!

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