how to make newborn wraps {with natural dye} for photo shoots

I had some boring white cheesecloth in my crafting stash that needed a makeover, and I wanted to incorporate it with my newborn wraps for photo shoots. While doing some research, I came across Kristin Marie Photography's post that gave me inspiration for dying my own cheesecloth wraps. I'm always interested in making things as natural as possible, so dyes like Kool-Aid didn't intrigue me for this project, but I decided to experiment with using dried herbs (which I have in abundance) as natural dyes. I recently saw the beauty of naturally dyed fabric from Silk & Willow who makes gorgeous plant dyed silk. I adore everything about the earthy, organic colors she creates from plants and hope to incorporate her ribbons and linens into my photography prop collection some day. 

I have limited experience with dying fabric (other than tie dying t-shirts with RIT dye at camp as a kid). I found some great information from Pioneer Thinking on how to use plants as dyes, and my herbal dying project began. The house soon smelled like a spa, with the aroma of rose and lavender...ahhhh! The lavender dyed the cheesecloth a cream color with a hint of pink (the color may have been richer had I used fresh lavender). The rose buds produced a bright red dye and turned the cheesecloth a pale pink color. I squeezed a lemon in both the rose and lavender dye baths to help activate the alkaloids and produce a brighter color. This worked really well for the rose. I also used St. John's Wort and avocado pits as dye. I would have never guessed the pits would produce a rich pink dye bath and turn the cheesecloth a warm coral-pink color. And the St. John's Wort produced a soft pale yellow. I also tried blueberries and raspberries which produced a periwinkle and lavender color. I'm looking forward to trying out other plants to get shades of green and brown too.

There's so many possibilities for what you can use to dye fabric, most of which can be found right in your kitchen or backyard. I used what I had on hand and LOVE the soft, feminine combination of colors that it created. These wraps are going to look so sweet for my baby girl newborn sessions.  

How to dye cheesecloth - naturally:

cheesecloth prep | natural dye | Louisa Nickel Photography
  • Prep your cheesecloth. I used 6 yards of Dritz cheesecloth and cut it into 6 sections. Then, I simmered the cheesecloth in water and vinegar (4:1 ratio) for 15 minutes. I also dyed a couple wraps with blueberries and raspberries, which aren't shown below, but I simmered those wraps in cold water and salt, not vinegar (1/4 cup salt for 4 cups water). This process helps set the color in the fabric when it's in the dye bath.
dye bath | roses | natural fabric dying | Louisa Nickel Photography
  • Prep your dye bath. I added dried herbs and water to a pot (1:3 ratio) and brought it to a boil. I let it simmer for about 15 minutes before straining the herbs from the water. You could use fresh plant material too, like I did with the avocado pits. You could also let the plant material simmer for longer, but I was satisfied with the rich colors I achieved with only 15 minutes of simmering. 
dye bath | natural dying | cheesecloth | Louisa Nickel Photography
  • Dye your cheesecloth. I placed my 6 different wraps in separate bowls and poured the hot dye baths over the cheesecloth. I let each wrap soak in the color for about 1 hour. You can let it soak longer for a richer color. Rinse with cold water when you're done until the water runs clear, and hang it up to dry. 

Plant dyed cheesecloth results {rose buds, lavender, st. john's wort, & avocado pits}:

 Rose buds

Rose buds

 Lavender

Lavender

 St. John's Wort

St. John's Wort

 Avocado pit - my FAVORITE!

Avocado pit - my FAVORITE!