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Compost Dyeing at the Greenmarket

The last Saturday in April brought some nice weather, so the Textile Arts Center decided spend it by heading down to the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket to do some natural dyeing demonstrations! There, we helped shoppers learn how to dye silk fabric with composted materials - something that can easily be done at home. Our materials were gathered from the compost collection site located at the market, which lead us to find some great dyeing gems such as turmeric and broomcorn! This demonstration was a crowd favorite because it is a perfect activity for all ages. We had such a great time that we want those who weren’t able to stop by at the market to get in on the fun too!


  • Food scraps and old flowers –We encourage you to experiment!
    • Ex:) Avocado peels (surprisingly will dye fabric a pink color!), onion skins, spices such as turmeric (BRIGHT yellow), carrot tops, coffee grounds, etc.
    • Fabric –we used silk because it takes the natural dyes the most effectively however cotton or other natural fibers will work as well
    • Twine
    • Steamer or a pot of boiling water with a colander and lid


1. Take your fabric and lay it out flat on a surface. Place your food scraps and flowers on top of it. We recommend that you put enough to cover the surface but not so much that it is spilling out when you roll up your fabric.

2. Tightly roll up your fabric so that the scraps inside are secure.

3. Wind your twine tightly around your bundle and tie it. This is to make sure that the scraps will not fall out and the dyes will reach all of your fabric.

4. Place your fabric bundle in your steamer and leave to sit with the lid on for about fifteen minutes.


5. After you are done dyeing your fabric, take your fabric out of the steamer, cut the twine off of your fabric and put your dye materials back in the compost! If there’s any leftover food on your fabric, you can easily wash it off in some cool water.

Thanks to all who stopped by and created some wonderful textiles throughout the day!


Interested in learning more about about natural dyes and dyeing techniques? Check out our current course offerings.


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