You may have heard of chamomile as a soothing herbal tea used to induce sleepiness, but it also can be used as a natural dye–one of the easiest plants you can use to achieve natural colors, pale yellow.
The chamomile is a small daisy-like flower, which is often used in ornamental gardens. They may be used as a fresh plant–flower, leaves and stems–or they can be dried and used as a natural dye.
When I dye plants that are new to me, I dye very small amounts, so it was easy to take one ounce of dried chamomile (which is sold in our urban ethnic market) and have enough dye for a very small pot. I used two cups of boiling water for one ounce of dried chamomile. My plan was to dye scraps of ivory vintage linen, including one scrap which had been previously dyed with indigo. I boiled the small scraps (less than half an ounce of fabric) for 20 minutes along with the chamomile. Almost immediately I could see the light yellow-orange liquid color. After 20 minutes, I removed pot from heat and steeped the dye pot for 3 hours, then rinsed in clear cool water.
The colors were not surprising–pale yellow–but I was pleased with the results. I had read that you might get green when over-dyeing with indigo. Since I did not have an indigo vat going at the time, I used a scrap of previously dyed indigo linen. You can see my results below. If you are a new dyer, chamomile would be a great dye to try first. No mordants needed, no long cooking, and pleasing results.