Apple Oak Fibre Works Eco Dyed Christmas Table Linen

Apple Oak Fibre Works Eco Dyed Table Linen

Worldwide it’s our aim to be more sustainable year by year.  The food industry has made big steps, by bringing back local, organic and slow food movements.  We don’t consume as much clothing as we do food, but we still use the same resources: water, soil, air and space.  For these specific reasons, it’s important to remember that we’re equally what we wear, as what we eat.

Natural dyeing is pretty much like cooking – the best and healthiest ingredients will give you the best results.  Just like cooking, you have to trust your own judgment and experiment, it takes practice, but your skill will improve with time.  Patience is the key.

Your pantry is most likely full of dyes – scraps you wouldn’t think twice about throwing into the compost, like lemon peels, carrot tops and avocado stones – all of which, give beautiful colours, as you’ll find out shortly.  Once used, the remaining dye can be poured onto the compost and be part of new growth to come.

There is so much to learn and experiment with when using local produce – just like tastier local foods follow the seasons – so does colour – which can become a celebration of the different times of the year.

Linen tablecloth from Fergusson, napkins from H&M Dublin

I love working on projects like this!

Maybe one day a chef will contact me and we can throw a dinner party together!

However, this little project involved a drive to Tipperary, ordering linen from up North and napkins from the West, lots of pictures in the rain and utilising my rarely used iron – what a real treat!

I hope you like ironing – I always forget how soothing it can be. When I was a child, my mother would iron everything – even knickers – and if she didn’t, it was my job.  Coming from a very traditional family including five younger brothers, the laundry – and every blasted pair of knickers – was on our to-do list. I’m surprised it didn’t put me off for life!

Unfortunately, it isn’t something I have much time for and I daresay few people do nowadays.  So be delighted!  This little project will get you ironing!


I used three dyes: Black Beans, Avocado and Hibiscus.
Black beans for the Tablecloth (blue/grey/lilac), Hibiscus for 5 Napkins (lilac) and Avocado stones for 5 napkins (Rose).

You will need:

  • Linen or cotton tablecloth (weighed dry)
  • Linen or cotton napkins up to 10
  • Dried Black Beans: (same weight as the dry tablecloth) beans soaked in water overnight
  • Hibiscus flowers dried or fresh: 75-100g
  • 5 Avocado stones
  • 2 pots – a big pot for the tablecloth and a not so big pot for the napkins.
  • Soda Ash or Washing Soda (Household section)
  • 200g Cream of tartar (Baking Section)
  • An iron

Overall time to dye: 2 days.
Actual time spend at the hearth: approx. 2 hours spread over 2 days.

If that all sounds good to you – let’s move along!

Dried Black Beans – you can buy these in most health food shops.

We’re going to use the soaking water of the beans to dye the tablecloth a nice grey-blue shade with a touch of purple.

You’ll need to weigh your tablecloth and use the same amount of beans. Mine was 650g.

Avocado Stones – you can roughly count one avocado stone per napkin.

The riper the avocado, the better the stone.

You don’t have to eat 5 avocados at once either – you can freeze the stones until needed.

5 stones will easily dye 6 napkins.

Hibiscus Flowers – you can use hibiscus tea (just make sure it is pure Hibiscus only, no additions, organic if you can) or you can purchase them online.

You will need about 75-100g of hibiscus flowers or two generous handfuls for 5 linen napkins.


It’s important that your tablecloth and napkins are white and made from pure cotton or linen.  Polyester or blends won’t dye.

Make sure you wear an apron and rubber gloves when handling Soda Ash.

It doesn’t matter if the cloth is new or used and washed many times before – it will have to be scoured.  Cotton tends to have more oil and waxes used in its production and needs harsher scouring than linen.

Make sure you weigh the tablecloth when dry than pre-soak cloth and napkins in the sink.

Fill the big pot with water and add:

  • One tablespoon of Soda Ash for linen
  • Two tablespoons of Soda Ash for cotton

Stir, then add the pre-soaked tablecloth and napkins. Stir a couple of times more and bring to the boil.

Simmer (about 95 degrees) linen for 1 hour, cotton for 2 hours.

Remove from pot, being careful because they will be hot!

Wring or spin out surplus water.

Don’t rinse unless stated in the recipe! 


  • After you have soaked the beans in cold water overnight – remember we want the liquid so don’t drain it away!
  • Half fill the big pot with fresh water.
  • Stir the beans to extract as much colour as possible.
  • Take a sieve and drain the liquid from the beans into the pot.
  • Place the beans back into the pot and fill with water again, stir then drain into the pot.
  • Add 100g of Cream of tartar to the dyebath.
  • Place the tablecloth in the pan adding more water to completely cover if required.
  • Heat to 80 degrees and simmer for 1 hour.
  • Leave overnight or 12 hours.

Remove cloth and spin dry in the washing machine on spin cycle.
Iron when still wet.

Tablecloth is done!

Hibiscus Dyed Napkins.

  • Make a tea using the hibiscus tea or flowers, let it brew until cool enough that you can squeeze out the flowers if used.
  • Fill a medium pot with fresh water.
  • Add the tea to the water (I added the hibiscus as well, but if you want to avoid any darker patches as much as possible, strain the tea through a sieve instead before adding).
  • Add the napkins and simmer for an hour or until the colour is deep enough for your liking.

Remove cloth and spin dry in the washing machine on spin cycle.
Iron when still wet.

The first batch of Napkins done!

Avocado dyed Napkins

  • Fill the medium pot with fresh water.
  • Add stones to the pot and simmer for 30min.
  • In the meantime, rinse out the napkins – getting rid of as much Soda Ash as possible.
  • Once the liquid is a nice red rose colour remove the stones.
  • Add the napkins and let them soak up the dye for 1 hour or until the colour is deep enough to your liking.

Remove cloth and spin dry in the washing machine on spin cycle.
Iron when still wet.

The second batch of napkins done!

Last but not least

Remember that you can use:

  • The beans in burgers, brownies (instead of flour), curries, stews and soups.
  • The Avocado for dips, butter replacement, in salads or just by itself.
  • Hibiscus makes a lovely tea and is great for children’s punch mixed with juices and spices.

Jenny works from her home in County Clare with her husband Tristan and three children.  She was formerly trained as a kindergarten teacher and then as a garden designer; before returning to her first love; colour and yarn. Her shop,  Apple Oak Fibre Works can be found here on Etsy.