Your garden may be bursting into bloom this summer, but its beauty doesn’t have to be ephemeral. In the Test Garden, we decided to make the most of our bright flowers and foliage by turning them into natural fabric dyes. The perfect starter project? Napkins for outdoor parties.
Step 1: Prep
Harvest from the garden. For the dye, mix 1⁄2 cup table salt with 8 cups water in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add cotton
or linen napkins and simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool, ring out, and fold lengthwise in half.
Step 2: Design
Place blooms and foliage all over the napkins to create a pattern. The more intensely colored they are, the better—we used maroon amaranth, purple basil, orange and yellow calendulas, and multicolored marigolds.
Step 3: Simmer
Once you’re happy with your design, roll the fabric (think sushi) and rubber-band it tightly. Simmer rolls in a large stockpot of gently boiling water, uncovered, for 30 minutes, depending on desired darkness of colors.
Step 4: Dry
Remove the rolls, disassemble, remove plant matter, and rinse under cold water. Wring out fabric and hang to dry. To preserve the colors longer, launder dyed fabrics on the gentle cycle, in cold water only.