Beets are just gorgeous, magenta gems. They are the upcycler's dream veg. After cooking and eating, there is all that ink-like beet-y juice left over to make art.
The beets take a bit of time to cook and the dividend is well worth it: beet ink (the juice before diluting) a beet dye bath and dinner. You can cook the beet greens as well. Dyeing with vegetables produces a subtle look. I tried cotton/poly blends but the color didn't take at all. Stick to natural fabrics.
Who says you can't eat colors!
Cut the greens off of the beets to just above the beet (save the leaves - you can steam or braise them: 15-30 minutes). Wrap the beets in foil (with a touch of olive oil). Bake at 350 degrees F for an hour (or so) until tender and let them cool.
While you're waiting for the beets to cook, choose some fabrics.
Peel the beets over a big bowl, adding all the garbage into the bowl. You can add some water to the bowl to make more dye. No rocket science here: the more water you add, the lighter your dye will be.
Here are some thrifted fabrics (poly blends - they didn't take the dye at all), upcycled linen, tea dyed cotton and muslin. Simply stir the fabrics to saturate them. You could dump the whole mess into a plastic zip bag at this point. Since there are veg peels in here, you might want to refrigerate the whole works if you think it will be more than 3-4 hours till you get back to it.
Mine sat in the frig for over 24 hours.
Rinse the fabrics. An alarming amount of dye will leave them; remember that this results in a subtle look. Throw them in the dryer or hang to dry. Try tea dyeing and coffee dyeing. Different kinds of tea will produce different colors so experiment. I haven't tried paprika or curry powder but that should work as well.
On the left is very soft old linen. You can see the difference between the bottom fabric (undyed) and the top fabric (beet dyed).
The fabric on the right (the creamy one on the bottom) was tea dyed. The top fabric was a hunk of the tea dyed fabric dyed again with beets. This one is a very smooth cotton and the dyeing was more dramatic. The fabric at the bottom of the pic was white muslin beet dyed. Very subtle.