Natural Dyes Master Class with Sasha Duerr: 5 Summer Flowers That Make Beautiful Natural Dyes


“Tug on one part of nature and you find the whole world connected.” John Burroughs

The Permacouture Institute’s natural dyes expert Sasha Duerr picks her top pigment-producing summer flowers, and inspires us to look to nature to soothe and elevate our mood as the summer season ends.

September signals a month of change. As summer winds down, warm nights turn chilly and children return to school. All this multi-tasking means we need to make time for reflection and contemplation more than ever.

Sasha Duerr, founder of the Permacouture Institute and author of the Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes, takes the opportunity to connect with the here and now by collecting summer’s last blooms to make natural dyes, a sensory experience she describes as helping “to see beyond what is actually there.” 

We asked her to pick her five favorite summer flowers and show us the color bouquet they make as dyes on silk fiber. The results are gorgeous as you can see…


Natural Dyes made from Coreopsis Creates Orange with Alum Salts


Natural Dyes made from Red Roses Turn to Gray and Black with Iron added

Inspired? If you’d like to experiment making your own natural dyes, here are Sasha’s tips for extracting every drop of beauty from the last days of summer.

– The dyes are all heated to a boil and then brought to a simmer for 20 minutes to extract the color.

– Alum Salts can be purchased from textile supply sources like Dharma Trading Company. Alum helps with light and wash-fastness and helps the color to brighten or “bloom” in the dye bath.

– Iron powder can also be bought from textile suppliers or be made simply from iron scraps, like old rusty nails and water.

– After dyeing fabrics should be rinsed with a pH-neutral soap, such as Ecover Dish Soap and hung to dry in the shade.


Natural Dyes made from Sunflower (Hopi Black Dye) Creates Greens to Purples, Blues and Blacks with Alum Salts and Iron Added


Natural Dyes made from Hydrangeas Makes Green with Alum Salts


Natural Dyes made from Purple and Black Hollyhocks Creates Blues and Purples with Alum Salts



All Images: Sasha Duerr

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Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.