Natural dyeing with marigolds

In search of the perfect shade of yellow, I found my recipe of marigolds + turmeric has been amazing to achieve that gorgeous shade of yellow, that’s not too bright, earthy and a subtle orange hue to it. I wrote about my exciting journey of natural dyeing with marigolds that began last summer. If you’d like, you can read it here. This summer I bought a tray of marigolds from my local farmers market for $15, in the excitement to dye more fabrics using marigolds.

This time around, I want to bring a fresh and modern vibe to natural dyeing. Think sophisticated, minimalist modern, clean and a bit abstract. I want to create a pattern by layering natural dyes to create patterns and colors. The first step in this process is to dye the fabric yellow using marigolds. I have a simple step by step tutorial below:

You will need

  • 4 oz White cotton fabric/ napkins (use natural fibers like cotton, linen, wool, silk to dye)
  • 4oz Marigolds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1tbsp+ 2 tsp of Alum
  • 1 tsp of Cream of tartar

Scouring the fabric

“Scouring” is the textile term for cleaning fibers prior to mordanting and dyeing, and does not refer to washing fabrics in a washing machine. If the fiber is not clean, the mordant and dyes will not adhere well to the fiber. You can use a neutral laundry soap or soda ash to scour the fabric. You can soak the fabric in ¼ cup soda ash and 1 liter water for 30 mins to scour it. You can use this detergent from Dharma trading as a textile detergent. If these aren’t readily available to you, wash the fabric with the laundry detergent you have available at least.

Mordanting the fabric

Mordanting is an important process of preparing fibers to accept color. While this step is optional, I advise doing it. I personally feel the color comes out brighter after mordanting the fabric. The color also becomes more durable and the colors last longer. There are several recipes to mordant a fabric, many can be found online. Personally, I use a mixture of Alum and cream of tartar. These are easily available in your grocery store, often in the baking aisle, and are non-toxic to use.

Fill a large stock pot with warm water, sufficient for the fabric to be fully submerged in. In warm water, dissolve the alum and cream of tartar. Let the fabric soak in the stock pot for 60 mins. Don’t let the water boil, but let it simmer on the stove.

Once you remove the fabric, do not wash it. Set it aside.

Dyeing the fabric

It’s ideal to have a 1:1 proportion of fabric to dye to marigolds in weight. You can add more marigolds if you’d like a more saturated color.

Add the marigolds to the mordant water. Let the marigolds simmer for 30-60 mins. This will allow for water to absorb the max color from the flowers. Now add in the turmeric. You can skip the turmeric, but I feel the turmeric adds a brightness and richness to the final shade of yellow achieved.

Before adding the fabric, you can either strain the water and remove the flowers. Else you can add the fabric along with the flowers. Leave the fabric in to soak for 30 mins.

Wash the fabric in warm water. Do not use cold water, to avoid shocking the fibers of the fabric. Rinse until the water runs clean.

Dry the fabric in the shade. Do not let the fabric dry under bright sunlight, this will make the color fade.

Do remember once the fabric dries, the color will be a bit lighter than when you dyed it.


Natural dyeing is an art. While most follow a recipe to achieve consistency in natural dyeing, you can also modify this recipe to get the result you like.

Don't forget to tag @amucherian and share photos of your marigold dyed fabrics.