DIY: Naturally Dyed Play Silks

Play Silks are simple, versatile, open-ended creative toys that are essential to any Waldorf-inspired or Natural Playroom (making the list on my top 5 must-haves for a Natural Playroom). Made from a pure and sustainable material, Silks are nourishing to the senses. Used in play, they allow children to use their imagination, providing myriad and endless possibilities. If you have not yet introduced this to your children, put a coloured silk in their hands and prepare to be enchanted.

This tutorial will walk you through the process of making your own play silks using plant and fruit dyes. The process is simple, fun and cost-effective.

Natural dyes are earth-friendly, non-toxic and make the loveliest subtle and earthy colours.

Step One: Order Plain Silks

Order plain hemmed 100% Habotai Silks (I order mine from Dharma Trading)

I highly recommend the 8mm for play. Play silks often come in 5mm which is too thin and prone to snags, rips and tears. Our 8mm play silks hold up to play very well and still look new after 3 years. In terms of sizes, I recommend 30x30 or 36x36 squares. You want a good size that they can use to make capes and dresses etc. (The smaller size silks are better for babies or dolls)

Step Two: Use a Mordant

This sounds a little morbid but a mordant is simply a fixative that allows the colour to affix to the material. You can use the following as a mordant:

SALT: For dyes made from fruits

VINEGAR: For dyes made from vegetables

ALUM: (recommended method): Works very well for either

Step Three: Wash your silks in cold water and soak in the mordant.

Step Four: Prepare the Dye Baths

I used the following:

Light Yellow: Tumeric (cold)

Golden Yellow: Tumeric (hot-process)

Purple: Blueberries

Dusty Pink: Beets

Purplish Pink: Red Cabbage

Blue: Red Cabbage + Baking Soda

(There are many more options for natural dyes such as onion skins, avocado skins, goldenrod, etc)

1. Boil your blueberries, chopped beets and red cabbage etc (separately of course!) in a pot of water for at least half an hour.

3. Add 1 tablespoon of Alum or 1 cup of vinegar or 1/2 cup of salt per litre of water. Stir the mixture occasionally.

2. Drain/strain it into a big bowl or mason jar.

Step Five: Add the Silks to the Dye

Place your silks into the bowl or mason jar filled with dye, making sure to saturate it completely and evenly. Leave it for at least an hour.

Note: the longer you sit, the more saturated the colour will become.

Step Six: Wash in cold water until the water runs clear and hang to air dry.

The finished result:

Now it's ready for play!

Some ideas: make dresses, capes, tie to wrists and use as wings, blanket, sling for dolls, use for small world play, create pretend grass, water/rivers, put in a pot and stir as "soup", tie to branch and use as a flag, use for your nature/seasonal table.