Natural Color

Vibrant Plant Dye Projects for Your Home and Wardrobe

About the Book

A beautiful book of seasonal projects for using the brilliant spectrum of colors derived from plants to naturally dye your clothing and home textiles.

Organized by season, Natural Color is a beautifully photographed guide to the full range of plant dyes available, drawn from commonly found fruits, flowers, trees, and herbs, with accompanying projects. Using sustainable methods and artisinal techniques, designer, artist, and professor Sasha Duerr details achievable ways to apply these limitless color possibilities to your home and wardrobe. Whether you are new to dyeing or more practiced, Duerr's clear and simple ingredients lists, step-by-step instructions, and detailed breakouts on techniques such as shibori, dip-dye, and block printing will ensure beautiful results. With recipes to dye everything from dresses and sweaters to rugs and napkins, Natural Color will inspire fashion enthusiasts, home decorators, textile lovers, and everyone else who wants to bring more color into their life.
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Praise for Natural Color

As seen in Sunset Magazine, Sweet Paul, Well + Good, Pacific Horticulture, Sacramento Street, and many more!

"She is at the forefront of the “slow fashion” movement."
Publishers Weekly

“Sasha Duerr teaches us to look to nature for inspiration, using botanicals to create subtle, painterly hues. Her ecologically sound approach is both ancient and modern and thoroughly in tune with the times--all photographed to beautifully capture the subtlety of her work.”
—Julie Carlson, Remodelista editor in chief

"A rich resource of indoor, plant-based DIYs"
Garden Collage

"One of the prettiest books to land on our desks"
The Chalkboard

"Discover the wonderful world of natural dye."
Atlas Magazine

"Sasha Duerr’s book is all about the kind of awareness we need — not only for making better choices, but also for tuning into the cycle and offerings of nature. As Duerr points out, nature is the ultimate instructor, an invaluable source of color, inspiration and innovation for all creative endeavors."
Santa Cruz Sentinel

"Sasha makes a seemingly complicated process appear less daunting. Her beautifully illustrated book is filled with easy-to-follow recipes and ingredients that we all have on hand, in our gardens, or compost piles!"
—Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home

"In Natural Color, Sasha shares her extraordinary gift for seeing color in nature. Through accessible projects and seasonal plant dying recipes, Sasha brings beautiful color to our lives and deepens our connection with nature."
—Molly de Vries, owner of textile company, Ambatalia

"Duerr is knowledgeable and thorough, and fiber artists with an interest in incorporating natural dyeing into their work will find the information they need to get started, as well as insight into the dyeing process."
 Library Journal
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Natural Color


Toxic color comes at an enormous environmental and human cost. Many do not realize that although we do not eat our clothing and textiles, the same materials that go into making our garments and disposing of them become us. Residue from synthetic chemicals used to make dyes can be found in our air, water, and soil.

Many of these synthetic chemicals don’t break down well, and the World Bank estimates that 17 to 20 percent of the world’s industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment. There are seventy-two toxic chemicals in our water that originate purely from the dyeing process; of these, thirty cannot be removed. As a January 11, 2013, New York Times piece by Dan Fagin details, our current methods of devouring fast fashion and synthetic dyes have us in “A Cancer Cycle, From Here to China.”.

Manufactured fashion “seasons” move quickly and relentlessly. The term “fast fashion” suggests that an article of clothing may continue to be functional but is no longer perceived to be stylish or appropriate. Unfortunately, everyone, as well as the environment, pays for the bargain bin. As with fast food, there’s little emphasis on the fallout of production or the negative social and environmental effects of rapid consumption.

When you are working with the plant-based color, in contrast, you’re constantly aware that you are working on nature’s schedule, not just your own. With plant dyeing, you can be directly involved with the plant and its life cycle and even the care and quality of the materials used to get a successful result. 

Natural color can be sourced from renewable resources—like waste and weeds found in by-products of agriculture and even in urban centers. Many plants discarded from agricultural crops are also dye sources; these include cover crops, like fava bean leaves and stalks, California poppy roots, and gleaned by-products, like artichoke leaves and avocado pits, which make rich natural colors. And many everyday waste products from our urban, suburban, and rural kitchens, restaurants, and grocery stores—such as onion skins, carrot tops, and pomegranate rinds—can also be upcycled from waste bins to make beautiful natural colors and still be composted.


Plant dyes have a rich history in every culture on the planet. The quest to revive the practice of natural plant dyeing relies heavily on rediscovery and sharing information, as a vast amount of practical knowledge has been lost. Dyeing with plants means more than simply replacing synthetic materials with natural ones—it means changing the way we care for and interact with our natural environment.

Natural color is an immersive and fully sensory experience. Experimenting with fallen redwood cones is awe inspiring, from the color that emerges—deep mauve, purples, and blacks—to the smell of the dye bath, like a walk in a rainy coastal redwood forest. Making your own natural dyes awakens the potential for designing as nature does, with purpose and beauty.

The value of “living” color is to appreciate and treasure the inherent uniqueness of nature and, as with an heirloom fruit or vegetable, to ensure biodiversity for future generations.

About the Author

Sasha Duerr
SASHA DUERR is an artist, designer, and advocate for the slow fashion movement who works with organic dyes, alternative fibers, and the creative reuse of materials. She is a professor at the California College of the Arts with a joint appointment in textiles and fine arts. Her work has been shown in galleries and museums across the United States and abroad. In 2007 Duerr founded the Permacouture Institute with the Trust for Conservation Innovation to encourage the exploration of fashion and textiles from the ground up. Her extensive work with plant-based dyes and ecological principles through local land-based sources and community has been featured in the New York Times, American Craft Magazine, Selvedge, and the Huffington Post. She is the author of The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes. More by Sasha Duerr
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