Dyeing silk with goldenrod

crafts Sep 25, 2020


Every year I watch the goldenrod to know when school is about to begin. The first day of school comes at the same as the goldenrod displays its bright yellow flowers. 

About three weeks into each school year, we gather the flowers, make the dye, and dye silk "capes" to go along with our story about a child knight befriending a dragon. In this story, the child knight is given a cape to get them strength:

Here's your cape of golden light
To give you courage, strength, and might.

This year is different with no children sharing space with me around the dye pot. Instead, children around the world (from a dozen countries) join me each morning on Storytime in the Schoolhouse and I decided to share this tradition with them. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with the community of subscribers thrilled to have a craft opportunity to share with their children (and connect to the story they were hearing). 

I want to share this simple and beautiful craft with you as well.

Watch the video above to see my process.
(This video was originally filmed as part of the Storytime in the Schoolhouse subscription.)


Or follow the directions below.


Supplies Needed:

  • goldenrod flower (or use turmeric, if goldenrod is unavailable)
  • white vinegar (1/4 cup)
  • alum (a few Tablespoons per pot of dye) *keep out of reach of children.
  • Silk (I prefer to use the 35" x 35" 8mm Habotai "scarves" from Dharma Trading Co.)
  • Large pot of water



  • This recipe is very flexible. You will need a bigger pot and more goldenrod if you want to dye several silks. You can also make several batches. The dye actually moves from the water to the silk, so the color will fade as silks are dyed.
  • Presoak your silk in a pot of water with 1/4 cup of white vinegar. Stir silk around to make sure the entire silk is wet. Remove when it's time to place in the dye bath. 
  • Fill pot 1/3 full of goldenrod flowers. You don't need to remove each small flower, instead remove the tops of the plant. It's okay if some green gets in there.
  • Fill pot with water and bring to a boil.
  • Let mixture boil for 3-5 minutes then turn off and walk away and do something for half a day or so. Even overnight is fine. This recipe is very flexible and forgiving!
  • Return to dye mixture and strain out flowers from dye. Toss/compost goldenrod.
  • Add alum to dye and stir. (Keep alum out of reach of children. This is "an adult job" in our house.)
  • Warm up dye if it has cooled all the way.
  • Add the wet silk to the dye and stir to ensure the silk is evenly saturated by the dye. Let sit in the dye bath for as dark as you want your color to be. 
  • Remove from dye and rinse under cold water until it runs clear.
  • Hang to dry.
  • Enjoy!

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