Beet Watercolor and Fabric Dye

My favorite way to eat beets is to roast them until soft and then sprinkle them with blue cheese crumbles and walnuts. Beets and blue cheese were made to go together in my opinion but you can do more with a beet than just eat it. You can paint with them!

Beets have a horrendously wonderful ability to stain everything they come into contact with. It was one day while I was chopping beets and my hands began to look like I was participating in live animal sacrifice that I had a thought- How could I use this incredible staining ability?

Sure, I could dye fabric but the lovely beet color was not permanent and would eventually wash out. And if I was not careful and threw it in the laundry with other items of clothing it would stain those too. So I thought some more and came up with trying to make beet watercolor.

Why, you ask? Why not, says I!

So I too the skins from my beets. (No , I was not going to give up eating the main body of the beet for my experiment. Scraps would do just fine.)

I saved these in the fridge for a day or two which is why they look a little dry. This doesn't matter since I then plopped them in a big pot and just barely covered them with water. I then simmered them for about 15 minutes or until I thought they had imparted enough of their color into the water.

I then took out the beet bits and continued to simmer the water until it became almost a runny syrup consistency.

You can see how it leaves a little residue on the side of the glass. I put the liquid in a canning jar and waited for it to cool a bit.

I then made my mom a card. This was just a little experiment but you can see that it did actually work. This is the fully saturated color. I did not dilute it with water or other color but you could.

The watercolor dried to a mat finish (not shiny like you see it when it was wet in the photo). And it was not sticky either.

I then wondered if I could paint onto fabric. So I did.

I used a paint brush and painted onto a strip of cotton fabric. It was easy.

Interestingly, I found that the beet paint sat on top of the fabric and did not seep all the way through. This may be because it was pretty thick. After letting it sit on the fabric for awhile (I walked away and forgot about if for about an hour but I doubt it needed that long) I washed it out.

Here is the washed and dried fabric that I painted on with homemade beet fabric paint. Not as dark as when you use it for watercolor but still a lovely color.

And here is the back. A little lighter than the front.

All in all I think my experiment was a great success. The beets make a pretty good dark red paint which you could use similarly to a watercolor. It did dye the fabric but I wouldn't use it for clothing or anything else that is going to be washed with other items since the color will probably bleed.  

This natural dye could also be used for coloring Easter eggs or as a non-chemical food dye. Or if you are really creative, you could use the beet dye to color embroidery thread, homemade paper or use it in a stamp pad. If you have tried any of these ideas, or have some more of your own, tell me about it in the comments section and share the beety goodness.