Dyeing Fabric with Coreopsis

Yellow daisy-like flower
To be really specific, the coreopsis species used for the tutorial was C. lanceolata, or lanceleaf coreopsis.

We’ve featured plants you can use to dye fibers before (see Growing Plants for Dye), and our curiosity got the best of us, so we decided to try out one of those dyes for ourselves and share the experience with you.

In this tutorial, we use coreopsis flowers to dye cotton and linen fabric. Coreopsis is a yellow-flowering perennial found throughout the United States; it’s also Florida’s state wildflower. This tutorial is for a small dye batch; to dye a large amount of fabric you’ll obviously need to increase the amounts of flowers and water you are using.

Supplies for this project include an 8-ounce glass canning jar, small pot, a stove, coffee filters, a funnel, and a bouquet of coreopsis flowers.

To begin, separate the flowers from their stems. Put the flowers in about a cup of water (eight ounces) and let them sit in the water for 24 hours.

two photos of glass jar with water and yellow flowers in it, second photo has text reading after 24 hours and the water is now yellow and flowers have condensed in size
The coreopsis soaking in water; the right photo shows how it looks after 24 hours.

After 24 hours the water should have a slight yellow tinge to it. Pour the contents of the jar into a pot and add 20 to 24 ounces of water (about three jars worth).

Bring the water to a boil and then turn it down to a simmer. Simmer until the flowers lose their color and the water is a lovely golden tone.

yellow flowers and water in a stainless steel saucepan, in the second photo the flowers have nearly disintegrated
The flower-water mixture at the beginning (left) and end (right) of simmering.

Let the mixture cool and using a funnel and a coffee filter, strain out the flower pieces to get your dye — we ended up with about 16 ounces of liquid.

A white plastic funnel with a brown coffee filter nested inside, sitting on a glass jar that has yellow liquid in it
Filtering the flowers out of the dye.

Add your fabric to the dye; for the most even color, be sure to stir the fabric around a bit. We used two different fabric types, linen and cotton, to see if the dye took differently to the different fibers.

Leaving the fabric in for 15 minutes should be enough to achieve a lovely golden-yellow color. We found that both the cotton and linen took the dye equally well.

two glass jars with strips of fabric inside soaking in deep yellow liquid and two strips of fabric dyed yellow and sitting on a counter
Soaking the fabrics and the finished product; the top fabric is linen and the bottom fabric is cotton.

When washing your newly died fabrics, keep in mind that it’s common for quite a bit of color to bleed out during the first wash. But we felt the color stayed relatively vibrant after washing the cloth dyed in this tutorial. No fixatives or additives were used in this process, although we did make sure to use clean fabric (as should you).

Also on Gardening Solutions