What you need:

1 cup black beans

4 tbsp pickling alum (the mordant or fixer)

Citric acid or vinegar

Baking soda

Rubber bands and twine (for creating beautiful designs with resists)

natural fiber (cotton, linen, wool, silk, etc.)

Want all the materials in one place? Here is a kit with all you need!


1) Soak your cup of black beans in two cups of water for 20 to 48 hours.

2) Dissolve 4 tbsp of alum in a gallon of water. Soak your fiber for at least 20 minutes. Will soak up to a pound of fiber (natural fibers only wool, silk, cotton, rayon etc.)

3) Strain your beans and set them aside for cooking. Keep soak water only! Heated cooking water will turn brown.

4) The bean water at a neutral pH is blue. Divide the water and change the pH to play with the color. Add a tsp at a time. Citric acid will lower the pH and turn the dye pinker. Baking soda will raise the pH and turn the dye bluer.

5)After your dyes are the color you would like add just enough water to submerge your fiber and let soak overnight.

6) Rinse samples in cold water until water runs clear, then warm water, then cold again.

Have fun experimenting!