DIY (Dye It Yourself)

The invention of dye is thousands of years old. Back in the day, people used plants, soil, and even insects to colour their clothing! Today, the artist Valérie Gobeil works with yarn of all colors.

Now, it’s your turn to dye a piece of fabric! Black beans can be used to dye clothes in a beautiful grayish-blue.


Grade 5-6

Duration : 1 period

  • Arts and crafts

  • Hands-on


Make a natural dye from black beans and use it to dye a piece of clothing.

Photo credit



*Please note that two of the steps require a 48-hour rest time.

Watch ”Valérie Gobeil – Outils et technique” (English subtitles)

Bring a light-colored piece of fabric from home. WARNING! Only organic materials are suitable for natural dyeing (cotton, hemp, linen, wool).

Follow the steps below to dye your garment.


To dye approximately 200g of fabric divided in two 500ml jars:

  • A saucepan or pot (will no longer be safe for cooking food)
  • A wooden spoon
  • Alum powder (available in drugstores)
  • Bowl to soak black beans
  • 1 cup dry black beans
  • Kitchen scale
  • Glass jar with lid
  • Gloves and face mask

Prepare the dye


Put the dry beans in a bowl and add four cups of water.

Let them soak for 48 hours.



Alum is a fairly harmless mordant – however, we recommend the use of gloves and a face mask.

Using a scale, weigh the piece of fabric you wish to dye. The required amount of alum equals 10% of the fabric weight (so if your fabric weighs 200g, you will need 20g of alum).


Weigh the required amount of alum. Dissolve it in a disposable container with hot water.


Fill the dye pot about half way with warm water and add the pre-dissolved alum. Add the fabric to the pot, stirring to make sure it’s well-soaked.


Bring the water to a light boil over medium-high heat. Turn it down to a low heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let the water cool to room temperature.


Wring the fabric. You can let it dry for later use or immediately move to the dyeing phase.

Dye the fabric :


Carefully strain the water from the beans into a container.


Put the piece of fabric in the glass jar, then pour in the black bean water. You can add warm water if the liquid does not cover the piece of fabric. Close the lid and give it a good shake.


Leave the jar in a sunny area for 48 hours, giving it a shake occasionally.


After two days, rinse your fabric with warm water. Hang to dry. Voilà!

Food for Thought

Work done by hand requires a lot of time and thoroughness. Back in the day, wasting clothes was out of the question! People would repair the same piece of clothing over and over until it was completely worn out. Unwearable clothes could be turned into blankets or carpets.