Everything you need to know about natural dyeing your wedding dress

Natural dyeing

If you're interested in dyeing your wedding dress, something we've always been asked about, we've found a way you can dye naturally with foraged plants and leftover food waste from Rebecca Desnos, natural dyer and author.

Since we started dressing timelessly chic brides over 16 years ago, we have always been asked by brides if you can dye their dresses and we've always had to advise it's not a good idea to for various reasons. The main one being that usual traditional methods involves the use of harmful dye chemicals which are terrible for the environment and often requires extremely high temperatures which causes unpredictable shrinkage rates for the outer and lining silk fabrics of a dress. All sorts of distortion would occur and thus damaging the dress. Is there another way?

Until now there hasn't really been another way I could advise, but there are now lots of books and blogs written about natural dyes using foraged plants and leftover food waste. Tinting the dress a subtle colour at a much lower temperature could be an option with lots of creative ways of dyeing and printing embellishments.

Rebecca Desnos – a Leading Writer and Dyer

We found so many amazing creative ideas and learnt so much about natural dyes from Rebecca Desnos's blog and books. She's a writer and natural dyer who's written four books on this subject and runs special workshops and courses, and has lots of tips on her instagram page. Such an interesting read and a fabulous idea to get someone one of the books. 

Below are a few things I've found on it that looks especially interesting that I'd really like to have a go at trying out ourselves on some of our leftover sampels and fabrics.


Natural dyeing

A Few Things To Think About Before You Start...

We had a go with a bold strong colour initially with one of our older samples, but sadly it didn't work out. Now feeling a much softer tint is what we should have done first and we're very interested in having a go at some of the creative embellishing eco-printing ideas. Before embarking on any project like this and especially on something as precious as your wedding dress here are ten things to carefully consider:

1. Always test things out on leftover fabric beforehand.

2. Any kind of dye with water may change the texture of the fabric slightly.

3. Once you've dyed the dress you can't change it back.

4. Don't dry clean your dress before dyeing, the chemicals may prevent dye uptake.

5. If you're looking for a strong dark, rich colour, this method isn't for you.

6. Natural dyes give soft colours and in places it might be a bit uneven. 

7. Stick to lighter shades and best to go for a TINT rather than full colour.

8. Consider eco-printing techniques such as hammering flowers

9. First attempts at natural dyeing can be disappointing, so make sure you take time to practice first. There are lots of natural workshops available at Ceres Studio 1 (Brixton), Botanical Inks (Bristol)

10. We haven't tried out any of the ideas below, but we will be.

11. There might still be a tiny bit of shrinkage even dyeing at low temperatures, if your dress is a snug fit with not much draped looseness, this might not be for you.

    Natural Dyes from Foraged Plants and Food Waste

    Today, there are plenty of resources and books about natural dyes and eco-printing using foraged plants and food waste like nettles, and avocado skins.

    Here are just some of the natural dyes you can use that are probably lurking in your garden or food cupboard.



    1. Go for a Subtle Tint with Tea Leaves

    Going for something that's a slight difference than bold, is probably the best idea when looking at all the various ideas for changing your dress.

    It seems its possible to tint your dress with tea, like black tea, rooibos and dried nettle leaves for the colours. Here's a tutorial which also includes information about using milk to paint a pattern before dyeing with tea. A thin layer of protein helps to bond the dye more to the fabric and so becomes darker in those parts. Go to the link below for more information.


    Dyeing a wedding dress with tea

    Dyeing with Nettles

    Gives a very sublte grey green colour - here's some info on that on the below blog.


    Dyeing with Nettles

    Photo by Rebecca Desnos.

    2. Dye Your Wedding Dress With Lots of Multi-Coloured Flowers

    We thought this was a really fun idea of something you can do and could look good without the need of tinting the dress. 


    3. Eco-printing with Eucalyptus Leaves

    I love this idea! Perhaps tinting your dress with something really subtle with nettle leaves and using leaves as a pretty pattern. 


    4. Printing Whole Flowers Onto Your Wedding Dress

    How about using the hammering technique to print whole flowers? I'm wondering what the effect could be on our silk crepe, and I can't wait to have a go at this ourselves on some left over pieces of silk. 


    I've Dyed My Dress, What Next?

    Once you've followed any of the following creative dyeing ideas above, consider doing one of the following which we'll cover in a series of exciting blog posts about how to upcycle your wedding dress:

    1. Shortening the dress

    2. How to make a skirt out of the bottom part as a second item

    3. How to transform your dress into two slip-style dresses

    4. Find a creative seamstress who can upcycle your dress

    5. How to style your newly upcycled dresses

    Further Reading?


    Great idea for Christmas to buy the books that has everything you need to do about natural dyeing. We'll be back with our tests with the above ideas, we can't wait to try with our leftover scraps.


    December 03, 2023 by Sabina Motasem

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