Black Bean Dye


Beans. I’m not a fan.

However,  black bean dye has the potential to make my favorite color – teal blue.

The first time I soaked black beans for 24 hours, I was wowed by the purple. Purple!


Black Bean purple dye

I finally felt inspired to experiment with dyes for the first time in a long time. This color lit a fire under my creative ass. Three minutes of online research taught me this:

  • Black bean dye is a cold dye (or a solar dye)
  • Heat kills the color. Don’t use heat
  • Use alum as a mordant

Ok. Got it. I threw this project together in about 10 minutes:

  • One 3 oz skein of 100% wool (not mordanted)
  • Tossed it into the bean water (sans beans)
  • A pinch of alum
  • Swished it around
  • Put it on my front porch
  • Went to work all week
  • Checked on it the following weekend
Black bean dye
Yep, that’s frozen mold.
black bean dye
Yep, frozen dye.



Laziest. Dye. Ever.

I’ll call this color Frozen Almost Purplish. Not bad for 10% effort. But I knew I could do better.

The following weekend I tried it again:

  • Soaked a bag of beans for 24 hours.
  • Poured the water into my jar.
  • Most important new step — tested the pH of the water.

If I want blue, the dye must be alkaline. My dye water started at pH7. I added 2 tsps of washing soda, which bumped it up to pH10. The color went from purple to green. Lovely, but that’s too alkaline to make blue. I poured in the last bit of bean water to add a little acidity, and added my wool (2-3oz skein).

I also didn’t leave it outside. I placed the dye jar on top of my fridge in my warm kitchen. Not sure this changes the dye, but it was worth a shot.

A warning — not only does this dye stink after a day or two, it contains  pressure. When I opened it a few days later, the top popped off (pinching my finger), and the yarn looked  eager to burst out like a trapped beast. I called it done.

GORGEOUS. I’m not a fan of eating beans, but I’ll dye with them any day.



As mentioned in the comments, this dye did not keep it’s color for long.  This blue faded to a gray within months.  While I dye for the process of creating color, and I firmly believe that should be the goal, it’s also important to think about how the yarn will look in the future. Especially before it’s used in a time consuming, beloved project!  Something to keep in mind. Happy dyeing.


  1. Brillant results! I never tryed beans for dyeing, but your pictures and explanations motivates me so much. Hoping to find simular beans here.

  2. This looks beautiful!
    I am really interested in getting natural blues and purples, but a lot of them have serious fading issues. Do you have any insight or experience with the colorfastness of beans?

    1. This is my first experience dyeing with beans, so I don’t have experience with their colorfastness *yet*. Doing a premordant on the yarn (with alum when using beans) should be a huge help with colorfastness. I was also warned that this dye would fade, but I didn’t let it stop me. I was told the same about my blackberry dyed yarn, and it’s still a lovely purple several years later. And honestly — I dye because I enjoy the process. Most natural dyes slowly fade over time; some fade faster than others. Blues and purples are notorious for fading the fastest.If it fades over time, that’s fine. I’ll just dye it again. 🙂

      1. I totally agree! I have some blackberry dyed yarns in knitted pieces from years ago and I think they fade less than people say (they get grey for sure, but it’s still a pretty grey-purple). I also premordant – but I read about how you added sugar and think that’s a great idea!

  3. These are gorgeous results! I’ve tried black beans in the past but my results were a bit bland so I’ve never attempted it again but now I want to! May I ask, is the wool you use superwash? I’ve noticed people tend to get better results with black beans when it is. Thanks!


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