Black Bean Blue

Black bean dye 01


As seen before in my previous posts Walnut Juice and Oak Gall Soup, I have been experimenting and learning how to use natural materials as fabric dyes and art supplies. While I was researching to make the dyes, I saw mentions of using black beans for a nice blue colour. This intrigued me so much I thought I would try it. It is both easy and fun!

Black bean dye 02

I really like India Flint who does a lot of beautiful and inspiring work.  I also found a couple of good blog posts here and here that helped me get an idea of what to do.  But for the most part, I am 'winging it' which is half the fun!

Black bean dye 03

I began by putting a cup of dried black beans and water in a glass bowl. I let it sit covered for 24 hours and poured the liquid over the fabric (two yards of unbleached muslin – not pre-washed - folded and laying in a rectangle casserole dish) and covered it up. Sorry... no photo of that.

I put more water in the bowl and repeated the soak. After 24 hours the soaking fabric was beginning to get an odour so I transferred the fabric and liquid (old and new) to a metal pot and set it outside. I covered it to keep critters out.

Black bean dye 04

Black bean dye 05

The bean soak was repeated so that there was a total of four 'doses' of liquid. I poured them through a colander and stirred up the fabric each time. I noticed that the fabric nearest the surface was a more greenish colour than the rest so I used a large stone to completely submerse it. Interesting point: each batch of liquid was darker than the one before.

Black bean dye 06

When ready, I pulled the fabric out and spread it evenly on an old door screen. I did this because I had found that, when I hung dyed fabric on my rack, it tended to have variant lines throughout. This time I wanted a more universal color. It was a breezy day and I had to clip it down, but muslin dries quite quickly.


A couple of days later, I heat-set with an iron. My heat-set process is always to iron both sides as hot as possible. Then I rinsed in water until there is no (or very little) colour bleed. I use just barely warm water only because the cold hurts my hands. This was wrung out and hung on a rack to dry and then heat-set again.

Black bean fabric 01

Black bean fabric 02

Here it is before being rinsed. The pretty variations are from the mould that formed in the casserole dish.

Black bean fabric 03

The final result:

There is also a small swatch I experimented with first. I had some dinner beans in a slow cooker and after they had been going for a few hours, I put a small piece of fabric in the pot for about an hour and removed. I then processed as I do the rest. It came out a darker bluish brown which I find quite interesting and useful.

Here is a photo of all my recent trials together for comparison. From left to right: 1/ Walnut husks; 2/ Avocado; 3/ Avocado (longer soak); 4/ Black beans soaked; 5/ Black beans cooked.


Natural dyes fabric pieces 01


Since I had not used the refrigerator, and the process took 5 days, I threw the beans in a corner of my yard. Who knows... maybe they will grow. I also poured the water over my herb plants.

My next natural dye blog will be about using avocado skins and pits. I am working on them now and it is going well. I am also preparing to experiment with pre-treating small pieces of fabric with mordant materials such as soda ash, salt, alum, soy, vinegar, etc. to compare the results. Once I feel I have established a decent rapport with the materials and processes, I will start getting artistic with them! I will use some of the dyed fabrics as surfaces for my creativity.

Black bean dye 01

At some point, I will need to make something with all these fabrics. A quilt maybe? I think a cool looking jacket or shirt would be awesome.