Sourgrass Dye

Sourgrass’s delightful sour taste, bright joyous yellow brilliance and heart shaped leaflets all invite children to connect with it!

For many of us it is the very first wild edible plant we eat – a powerful experience as we taste the delightful sourness provided to us by Mother Earth. The bright yellow flowers bring smiles to our faces as the heart shape leaflets show us how loved we are! This plant in many ways encapsulates the magic of childhood! Here we will share how to capture its radiant yellow color in natural dye!

You can also share the story of How Sourgrass Came to Be with your child as you make your dye and even harvest some extra to make some Sourgrass Pasta!!

Our Chickadee class had so much fun making our sourgrass dye this Spring and I am deeply grateful to the amazing natural dyer and Chickadee momma, Caitlin McCann, for teaching me this magic. 


Step 1. Harvest your sour grass flowers! 

  • As it is later in the season I would check in the shadier places – Rocky Nook can be a good spot to check.
  • Pluck just the flower head off the stem. You can eat the rest, or add it to a meal.
  • You will need enough flower heads to fill your dye pot half way up – I like to use a big 3 gallon soup pot. Take your time, checking for busy bees pollinating, enjoying the sights around. Do you hear any birds? How can you ask the flowers if you can harvest them? What gift could you give in return?
  • I like to harvest some extra flowers as they also make an incredible yellow when drawn on paper!

Step 2. Put your flower heads into your pot. Fill about half of the pot with boiling water – pouring the water over the flower heads. 

  • Notice what happens to the color of the water!

Step 3. Leave it overnight, for the magic to continue to happen. Notice how much more yellow the water is when you wake up!

Step 4. Strain out your flowers – and reheat your dye water to a gentle simmer. 

Step 5. Now you get to add your fabric – by placing it in your dye pot submerged in the golden liquid.! Some fabric will take up the dye more so than others. White silk and wool take up the dye well, 100% cotton also takes the color up pretty well. Many of us don’t have wool or silk around the house but may have an old white cotton shirt, or an old cotton sheet that we can cut into pieces. 

  • If you would like, you can use rubber bands to make tie dye patterns. 

Step 6. Let it simmer gently for 10 minutes. 

Step 7. Turn off the heat and let your fabric remain in the dye water until it has cooled. 

Step 8. Take your fabric or yarn out of the pot, squeeze the extra liquid, admire its beauty, rinse with water and hang to dry. It will lighten up as you rinse it with water.


Step 9. Dyed fabric care – I like to just hand wash my sour grass dyed fabrics and use a natural soap – I use Dr. Bronners. Don’t wash with other colors as the yellow could get on other things. 

Step 10. Enjoy!

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