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Wonder Colors




1 cup beets, fresh or canned

Water to cover

2 teaspoons vinegar

Cover fresh beets with water and boil in an enamel or glass pan until barely done. Remove the beets and peel, slice, and chop them, reserving the juice. Return beets to the juice and soak them for 4 hours. Strain liquid and measure out 3/4 cup. Add the vinegar to the liquid. If using canned beets, strain out 3/4 cup of the liquid and add 2 teaspoons of vinegar.

1 cup cranberries

Water to cover

Cover cranberries with water and boil for 2 hours, mashing the cranberries as they soften. Strain liquid.

Copper or Yellow:

Outer skins of 5 yellow onions

1 cup water

Boil the dark, dry outer skins of yellow onions in a covered glass or enamel pan for 10 minutes, or until the liquid is dark yellow. Strain the juice.

1 cup daffodil, acacia or crocus blossoms

Water to cover

Cover blossoms with water in an enamel or glass pan, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Strain liquid.


1/2 head red cabbage, chopped

1 cup water

Simmer the cabbage and water in a covered enamel or glass pan until the cabbage turns dark green and is just tender. Strain the juice, which will be blue.

1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or canned

Water to cover

For a darker shade of blue, cover the fresh blueberries with water and simmer for 30 minutes. Mash the berries and strain the juice. If using canned blueberries, strain the juice.


1/2 cup fresh-frozen blackberries

Allow the frozen blackberries to soften at room temperature for 30 minutes, then blend for 30 seconds.


Outer skins of 5 red onions

1 cup water

Boil the outer skins of the onions in the water in a covered enamel or glass pan for 10 minutes. Strain the juice.

1 cup grass clippings, spinach, or moss

Water to cover

Cover the grass, spinach, or moss with water and boil in an enamel or glass pan for 1 minute, and then simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid.


1 cup coffee grounds or 10 tea bags

1 cup water

Cover coffee grounds with water or add tea bags to water. Simmer, uncovered, in an enamel or a glass pan for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid.

Hints: If you plan to use any of these colors on fabrics, you will have to boil the fabric in a fixer or mordant before adding the colors. You can use either 4 tablespoons of potassium alum mixed with 1 tablespoon cream of tartar, or 1 teaspoon of chrome mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar. To apply mordant to fabric, dissolve the mordant you have chosen in 1 cup of water. Add this mixture to a large pot containing at least 1 gallon of water. Use the above measures of mordant for each 8 ounces of fabric. Add the fabric, making sure there is enough water to cover, and simmer for 1 to 4 hours, depending on the color intensity that you want to achieve. Turn off the heat and let the fabric rest for another 4 hours; rinse, and dry.

Try experimenting with flowers and leafy materials that you can boil for color. Small rocks, berries, and twigs yield pretty colors.

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