colors from black bean

A selection of my samples from black bean dye bath in various shades of blues

While cleaning out the kitchen cupboard, I found a large bag of dried black beans tucked in the corner behind the canned foods. This reminded me of a thread I had read in one of the Ravelry discussion groups about the variations of color people get from using black beans as a blue dye. I thought it would be interesting to find out for myself the color and dye potential of black beans.

This post discusses the results of my experiment using different types of water and various modifiers to see how they interact in the dye-bath. Modifiers are chemicals and minerals that assist in dyeing. They can shift or alter the pH in a dye-bath from acid to alkali (and vice versa) to enhance colors. The modifiers that I used in this experiment were: washing soda and baking soda. Other common modifiers (which I did not try for this experiment) are alum, iron (alkaline), and vinegar or citric acid (acidic) in most of my dyeing.

Following are results of the different combinations that I used.  It is definitely worth experimenting, as I have discovered there is a vast difference in color and hue depending on the combination of  water and modifiers. I am pleased with the beautiful results that can be achieved with a simple kitchen staple; the black bean. Below are detailed photos and notes, documenting the various process.

Part I: wool and silk samples; tap water; baking soda modifier

First, I started off by soaking the rinsed beans in a pot filled with enough water to cover the beans. After a few hours of soaking, I noticed the liquor (bean juice) was already showing a dark murky color; a result from the water absorbing most of the pigments from the black beans. The pot with the black beans was left to soak overnight. The next day, the liquor (bean juice) was drained off to another pot; the soggy and plump looking beans were tossed into the compost. Then the liquor (bean juice) was poured into two Mason jars. In one of the jar, I stirred in a tiny amount of baking soda, and left the other jar plain without modifier. Then, I placed into each of the jars, the same amount of wool and silk samples. The jars were then left out for another day before I opened it the following day.

Results from wool and silk samples; tap water; baking soda modifier:

shimmering sea-foam green on silk–black bean and tap water with baking soda modifier

grayish teal on wool–black bean and tap water with baking soda modifier

grayish-violet on silk–black bean and tap water without modifier

Part II: cotton samples; rain water; washing soda modifier:

After seeing the results from the first experiment, I am also curious to see the effect and the difference in color when using soft or distilled water instead of tap water. I was fortunate to have had collected a container of rain water from last year’s rainfall. I bought a pound of organic black beans in the grocery store. The beans were rinsed and soaked overnight in a large pot filled with rain water. The next day, the liquor (bean juice) was drained off from the beans and poured into two separate containers. This time, I kept the soaked beans to make a chili dish for dinner (don’t tell John).

I have two pieces of cotton muslin and some cotton trimmings: one piece of fabric and trimmings was pre-washed in plain tap water (first batch); another piece of fabric and trimmings was pre-washed in washing soda (second batch). After they were rinsed clean, I placed the first batch that was washed in tap water into one of the container; and the second batch of samples into the second container. The solution in the first container remained unchanged as I immersed the cloth samples in the liquid. As I manipulated the samples, I could see they were turning to various shades of blue.

Results from first batch of cotton samples, washed in tap water:

pretty powdery pale blue cotton and trimmings

cornflower blue vintage lacy table linen

cerulean blue color, next to dark blue ceramic sculpture made by our son

Results from second batch of cotton samples, washed in washing soda: here you can see the extreme color changes from white to bluish purple (fresh out of the pot). This was the highlight of my day!

colors of my wisteria, bluish purple

a lovely color for a vintage lacy table linen

Collage of pictures to see, touch, smell, and savor

~Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.♥

“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happiest.”

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8 Responses to colors from black bean

  1. Terriea says:

    Very clear instruction and steps. Wonderful outcome. Love the colors from blue to purple. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Linda St Angelo says:

    Every single piece is beautiful. Even the chili……. Who says a person can’t eat their experiments? ha ha
    Seriously now… the yarn is gorgeous. Fabrics are scrumptious. I am so happy to receive this post. I am making a purplish vest, and was going to put an eco print silk fringe on the bottom. I wanted to color the silk a bit purplish….. and wasn’t sure what I was going to use to do so. I had bought some black grapes…..haven’t experimented with it yet. I am going to raid the pantry. I just know there are some black beans in there. I do have a question. Could a person wash the silk in washing soda? I know you used cotton in your experiment with washing soda. What a happy experiment. Results were fab.


    • mltai says:

      Hi Linda, Thanks for your lovely comment. I love to see your results if you like to share. Washing soda is alkaline and therefore not good to wash silk or wool with it. Try baking soda or mild soap instead. Hope this helps. 🙂


  3. Marilyn Stephens says:

    Wonderful blog post on Dyeing with Black beans Melinda ❤️ Thank you for sharing such an informative post, I have used black beans before but this has inspired me to use a modifier xxxx


    • mltai says:

      Hello Marilyn, I was impressed with the colors myself too. I love to see your results as I’ve learned that black bean is sensitive to pH and depending on your water condition. I love to see your results. 🙂


  4. Live and Learn for life. Thank you so much for the information! This is the color that I could not get.


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