Tutorial: Dyeing Ribbons with Fleuropean

I’m completely giddy over today’s post! Emily from Fleuropean spent lots of time experimenting and perfecting a technique for dyeing silk ribbon on our behalf and the results are amazing! Hope you enjoy the fruits of Emily’s labor as much as I have. Welcome, Emily…we’re so honored to have you on the Brouhaha today!

rainbow ribbon

Hello there, Botanical Brouhaha buddies!

My name is Emily. I’m a Californian-born gal turned Belgian farmer-florist. Although some of you might know me through the Lonely Bouquet movement, I mostly keep busy growing lots of flowers for my floral business, Fleuropean. In addition to endless experimentation with new seeds and floral combinations, I love a good indoor challenge… it makes those rainy days so much more bearable. So when Amy caught wind of my dabbling in natural homemade dyes and asked if I’d be interested in sharing my experience with you guys, I could barely blink before writing back with a resounding “yes!”.

If you’re anything like me, romantic ribbons and flowing ties are half the fun when it comes to hand-held bouquets. Sometimes, however, it can be tricky finding just the right color… or maybe that perfect ribbon you’re eyeing is a bit beyond your budget? With oodles of elderberries ripening on the bush, I couldn’t help but wonder how the deliciously dark fruit would work as a DIY dye. Luckily I was the proud new owner of a recycled silk chiffon ribbon skein… the opportunities were (almost) endless!

Hovering over my steaming cauldron, stirring the bubbling, boiling concoction, I felt a bit like a wacky witch cooking up some magic potion. The experimentation started with elderberries, but the array of goods both foraged and found that ended up in my kitchen grew exponentially after Amy’s inquiry. All of a sudden avocado skins, spices, grapes, cabbage, and garden greens found themselves stuffed into pots and pans. You’d be surprised at the rainbow of ribbons you can produce!

Admittedly, the dye-making process is quite simple. For the most part, it consists of several easy-to-follow steps: 1) Bring water to a boil, 2) add key color ingredient(s) and let boil for several minutes, 3) reduce to a simmer for roughly an hour, 4) strain out the solids, 5) add ribbon to your dye, 6) bring to a boil once again, 7) remove from heat and let stand for as long as you’d like, sometimes overnight to let the color fully develop, although I found that adjusting the proportions of dye ingredients to water used is the best way to play around with color saturation, 8) rinse with cold water until the water runs clear before, finally, 8) hanging to dry. Pre-treatment with a mordant (alum, iron, etc.) will most likely increase color vivacity and color-fastness. I didn’t have any, though, and the ribbons turned out just fine… I just wouldn’t leave them soaking for extended periods in water.

If you’re not happy with the final result… *ahem* your curry turns out neon yellow? You can always double dip in another dye bath. I found that double dipping a bright yellow curry ribbon in an elderberry bath resulted in a beautiful caramel color perfect for autumn.

Just to give you an “illustrated” step-by-step tutorial, I’ll take you through the process of dyeing a batch of ribbon in a bath of avocado skin infused water. Who knew that rough and lumpy avocado skins could produce such a lovely shade of pale peach?

avocado collage text

Emily sent us a gorgeous gallery of her bouquets tied up with the ribbons she dyed. See the dye ingredients listed below each series of the photos. They’re stunning!

avocado skins 1

avocado skins

avocado skins 2

Dye ingredient (3 images above): avocado skins

curry cumin and curry double dipped in elderberries

curry cumin and curry double dipped in elderberries (3)

curry cumin and curry double dipped in elderberries (2)

Dye ingredients (3 images above) : curry, cumin and double dipped in elderberries

curry cumin

Dye ingredients: curry & cumin

elderberries 1

elderberries 2

Dye ingredient (2 images above): elderberries

red cabbage and grapes 4

red cabbage and grapes 3

red cabbage and grapes 2

red cabbage and grapes

Dye ingredients (4 images above): red cabbage & grapes

A final thought from Emily:

In case you should be after any other colors of the rainbow, here’s a Botanical Brouhaha Brewer’s guide to natural dyes. I’ve added a star next to ingredients that I used for the ribbons in this tutorial. There are lots of other natural ingredients to be found, so don’t be shy about experimenting with whatever looks like it could be fun… keeping in mind that some plants are poisonous, of course.

collage red

collage pink

collage orange

collage yellow

collage blue

collage purple

collage grey

I can’t thank Emily enough for taking the time to experiment and record all of this for us! If you have questions or need clarification on anything you’ve seen here today, Emily has invited you to ask away! Simply leave her a comment at the end of the post.

To learn more about Emily, The Lonely Bouquet & Fleuropean:

Fleuropean Website

The Lonely Bouquet Website

The Lonely Bouquet Facebook

Fleuropean Facebook



  1. dani says:

    Thank for this amazing tutorial Emily! Where might be a good source to start purchasing silk ribbon to try this?

  2. Jeri Wingfield says:

    I was wondering how the dyed ribbons hold up to contact with water? Thinking of rain or something similar. Would hate for some dye to bleed on a dress.

  3. Love this post! What a wonderful resource! You mentioned the silk chiffon ribbon but it seems like you used other fabrics too. Did you cut your own ribbon or was it purchased?

    Thank you so much for putting it together.

  4. Emily says:

    My pleasure, ladies!!
    Jeri- I’ve used the ribbon on bouquets just yanked out of fresh water and haven’t noticed any bleeding. The avocado-dyed ribbon has been carried around during slight showers and has held up fine… I think if you rinse thoroughly (until the water runs clear) after removing the ribbon from the dye bath, it should hold up to light-medium water exposure. I’d only be worried about it sitting for extended periods of time. Each dye material might hold up differently, though, so I’d probably do a little test with each batch that you make, just to be sure that no bleeding will occur 🙂
    Shannon and Dani- I purchase my recycled sari silk (chiffon) ribbon via Etsy… the rest were bits that I’ve picked up over time 🙂
    xx Emily

  5. Rene says:

    Lovely post. What kind of silk fabric do you recommend for making the actual ribbon? You mentioned you already had some vintage ribbon, but if we are starting from scratch, what should we use to create the ribbon? Thank you!

  6. Emily says:

    Rene- I think all silks (habotai, dupioni, satin) would work wonderfully, but I used sari silk (both chiffon and plain). I also used both cotton ribbon and linen fabric that I cut into strips, which both absorbed the color nicely as well. Just keep in mind that each material will react to the color differently, resulting in slightly different shades and saturation… but those slight variations are exactly what I love about the whole natural dyeing process 🙂

  7. Oh my. I’ve done a fair amount of tea dying and loved it…but these colors are heavenly! I’m a little afraid to begin, wondering if I’ll ever stop. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Thank you so much for doing this tutorial. The colours and silks are just gorgeous . Can’t wait to try them !!

  9. Alice White says:

    This post is so informative, thank you so much! I can’t wait to try this, such a pure and natural look. and so helpful the lists of things that produce certain colors! Love it.

  10. […] this tutorial from Botanical Brouhaha uses avocado skins and elderberries to create subtle organic colours and just look at those […]

  11. Deb says:

    Thank you Emily for the informative article. You KNOW I’m a fan!! You have the most gorgeous flowers and ribbons!! Keep up the beautiful work.

  12. alicia says:

    thanks for your information, but where to purchase silk ribbon to dye?



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