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ATK Kids

Want to Make Natural Tie-Dye at Home? Use Blueberries.

All you need are the berries—or ground turmeric—and white fabric.
By Published Sept. 29, 2021

Are you looking for a fun rainy-day activity to do with kids? Trying to live a more natural lifestyle? Or did you just end up with a sad batch of blueberries? If any of those apply (or even if they don’t), you should make food-based tie-dye.

This activity is featured in America’s Test Kitchen Kids’ subscription box program for young chefs, the Young Chefs’ Club. It’s part of our food art–themed box, which also includes a cloth for dyeing, cards with food-styling techniques (and recipes to practice them with), and so much more.

What Food Can Be Used to Make Tie-Dye?

Tons of foods can be used as dyes (spinach! onion skins!), but we picked blueberries and ground turmeric for a couple of reasons. For one, they hold their colors relatively well compared to other ingredients—trust us, we tested a whole bunch. Two: They require no prep whatsoever. That means no dangerous, tedious chopping for young kids.

How to Use Food to Tie-Dye

The process is not that much more involved than traditional tie-dye. First, let the blueberry-water (or turmeric-water) mixture simmer for an hour to pull out the pigments. Meanwhile, create the pattern on your fabric (spiral, squares, or scrunch). Next, strain the cooled dye mixture, dunk your cloth in the dye, and let it sit. Finally, rinse the garment, remove the rubber bands, and let it dry!

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

  • Make sure to use white, 100 percent cotton fabric. Other than that, you can dye any garment you’d like—dish towels, socks, onesies, and more.
  • To dye a larger item, such as a sweatshirt, double the amount of water and the dye ingredient.
  • You’ll need to wash the item you plan to dye in the washing machine BEFORE dyeing (no need to dry it). This helps the fabric absorb the dye.
  • To prevent staining, wear gloves and a smock and keep the dye away from counters or other porous surfaces.
  • Let the garment sit in the dye for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. The longer it sits, the more color it will absorb!
  • Let the garment dry away from direct sunlight.

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