Summer Means Backyard Dyeing

Playing with safe and easy mud dye seems like the perfect summer activity.

Susan E. Horton Jun 19, 2024 - 3 min read

Summer Means Backyard Dyeing Primary Image

Elisabeth Hill Mud Cloth Napkins from Little Looms 2020. Photo by Matt Graves

For me, it doesn’t quite feel like summer if I haven’t messed around with dyes in the backyard. I’ve done my share of successful and unsuccessful dyeing, so I’m eyeing Elisabeth Hill’s Mud Cloth Napkins from Little Looms 2020 with hopes that this will be a check in the successful column. What I love about the dyes she used (Bengala Mud Dyes) is that they don’t need hot water and a dye kitchen, just some tubs and water and a couple of mixing cups, so I can do my dyeing outside on the lawn. I still remember the sick feeling I got when I realized the dye water from one of my less-than-successful dyeing experiments had left a permanent mark on my stainless-steel range.

Hill Skeins Drying

Elisabeth’s skeins of dyed cotton drying in the yard. Photo by Elisabeth Hill

I’ve read the yarn specs, and I’ll need to order a couple of cones of Gist’s Mallo cotton slub, although I have plenty of the 10/2 cotton needed for the hems. Elisabeth also had an article in Handwoven March/April 2020 about the Bengala Mud Dyes, so I think I understand how they work, and it seems straightforward. Her napkins are gorgeous, but they don’t quite fit my home’s palette, so I’m planning an entirely different palette. Loop of The Loom doesn’t sell the dye kits anymore, but they do have the individual colors for sale in three sizes of container. I’m in some sort of weird “citrus” phase so I am planning to use the yellow, orange, and pink (as in pink grapefruit).

According to the website, one 200 ml bottle will dye five T-shirts, which reminded me that as long as I’m at it, I should throw in some plain white T-shirts for my son who prefers clothing without writing on it. And, if what’s past is truly prologue, I’ll end up with a couple of dyed pieces myself, just because it’s fun and one of my all-time favorite color combos is pink and orange.

I’m excited to embark on this new adventure with new yarns and new dyes. My rigid-heddle loom is empty and has been asking for a summery hand-dyed warp.

Weave well,


Originally published 6/30/2022; Updated 6/19/2024