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How to dye yarn with black beans


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.

Some Things To Consider

Finding Testers

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.


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.

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.

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.

Here’s the finished product!


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!

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