we have a lot of fun dying silks using herbs. our two favorites are poke berries and black walnuts. it takes about 2 weeks total to do. all sorts of herbs can be used. i've even used dandelion blossoms to make a pale yellow. goldenrod, elderberry and st. john's wort all make great dyes too! poke berry is not color fast, but it is such a lovely color that we just try to re-dye our silks each year.
to dye silks, first, i fill a half gallon jars with the herb i am using. i mashed any berries a bit in their jar (the walnut hulls i just break up roughly & stuff in. i add enough water to fill each jar to the top. then i set them out in the sun for about a week, shaking every day.
the next week, i strain out the plants and add 1/4 teaspoon of alum to each jar. you can find alum in the spice section at the grocery store.
next, in go the silks. i buy ours from dharma trading. (the 35 x 35 make a great size). i've also dyed a silk dress that i found at a thrift shop with the walnuts. it is a beautiful shade of gold. i hope to dye it again to make it darker as it is the same color as my hair right now and makes me look a bit bland.
black walnut rinsed and wet:
these make GREAT gifts for friends! natural herbal dyes can be used to dye all sorts of natural fibers from wool to cotton to silk to linen. each fiber will naturally dye a little differently.
another fun temporary dye using poke berries is for hair dye. poke is not very colorfast, even with alum. when used on hair, it washes out very easily but is a fun way to spice up your hair. simply mash, paint on with your fingers or a wide paint brush and viola!