Natural Dyeing


Guest post by Rebecca Burgess,* photos by Paige Green.


In the summer, when blooming cycles of some of our most common plants are in full swing, it is possible to harvest continuously throughout the season—regenerating the plants as we go. Coreopsis tinctorium is one of those species that generates more blooms the more it is harvested from. For this reason, it makes a wonderful dye plant. If you don't have access to coreopsis tinctorium, another favorite is zinnias. Of course, you may try any garden flower you have access to as you may find something that's not been discovered before.


  • Freshly harvested coreopsis blooms
  • Heat tolerant glass jarSolar oven (optional)
  • Pre-mordanted yarn or textile


  1. Harvest the blooms of the coreopsis plant (about ½ of the weight of the garment or cloth that you intend to dye).
  2. Place the blooms in either a) a jar of recently boiled water for fast acting results b) a jar of cool water placed into a solar oven.
  3. If you start with hot water your dye will be ready within 4-5 minutes, if you use a solar oven the dye will cook within an afternoon of direct summer sunlight.
  4. Once the water is deep orange, you can place your yarn or textile directly into the jar of flowers.
  5. Let it steep for at least one hour; for darker colors you can leave it in overnight.
  6. Once removed, gently rinse in warm water and hang dry.

Coreopsis dye making is an ancient practice. The flowers have been used for dye for centuries; the beautiful range of deep orange shades are reminiscent of the strength of the summer sun.


*Rebecca Burgess is a revitalizer of natural dyeing techniques, ecological restoration educator, textile artist, author of the book Harvesting Color  and founder of Ecologicalarts and the Fibershed Project in Mill Valley, California.