we like it wild: dip dye cups

We’re taking a much-needed break at the shop this week before we kick into the next round of weddings, so we finally had a little time to do a fun crafty project! We’ve caught the tie-dyeing bug (we have a party planned with the gals for later this month), and this project is an inexpensive way to add a handmade and colorful look to your summer table. The stars of the show are Wasara biodegradable paper cups in simple but beautiful shapes that look perfect with just a few blooms inside . . . easy! — Studio Choo

The full how-to and more pictures are after the jump!

We made our dyes from natural plant materials, but you could also use store-bought dye. We wanted to use shades of red, purple and blue with a fairly monochromatic look, so we gathered some bearded iris, beets and dahlias and threw in a bit of yarrow and eucalyptus to mix it up. Some plants will work better than others — the beets made for the strongest color we used.

To make a natural dye, you’ll need to gather plant material, chop/cut it into small pieces, add it to a pot with two cups water to one cup plant material, and simmer for at least an hour. Use a separate pot to make each color. The longer you let it simmer, the more concentrated the color will be. Then strain the plant material out and let the colored liquid cool in a bowl.

The dipping is the fun part! Play around until you find the look you like — there is no right or wrong. We set up a dipping station on an old picnic table in the backyard covered with a plastic tarp. You don’t want to get the dye where it could stain any of your good furniture/rugs! Line up bowls filled with dye (large enough to fit the cups into) and start playing.

We ended up with two favorite dipping techniques: the dry creep and the wet grade. For the dry creep, we dipped a cup deep into the bowl and let it sit a few minutes. When it achieved a nice first color, we took it out and let most of the excess liquid drip off. Then we set it on the tarp on the opposite side as we dipped it (if you dipped the bottom of the cup into the bowl, flip it so the opening is face down of the table or vice versa). Let it dry completely. You should get an uneven line that is slightly darker on the edge and that looks like a little landscape. Then we re-dipped the cup into another color, not as deep into the bowl as the first. Repeat the drying process until you have the layers you like. For the wet grade, the process is similar, just don’t let the layers dry between dipping. The wetter the cup is when you re-dip, the more fluid the color gradation will be. Once the cups are dry, they need to be sealed so the dye doesn’t run. We coated the inside and outside of our cups with a clear spray fixative (test to make sure they don’t run before you put them on your antique tablecloth).

When you are ready to use the cups, you can just fill with water and go to town. We used an assortment of clippings from our garden: geranium, zinnias, nasturtium, mint, chamomile and heuchera, but you can use whatever works best with your dye colors. We placed some small flower frogs in the bottom for a little extra weight and stability, since the cups are paper and light! We recommend weighting the bottom (pebbles will work fine, too) especially if you are using them outside. Happy dipping.

  1. Abbey H says:

    These are absolutely gorgeous! As always, genius idea.

  2. Oh my goodness this is lovely and I think this might be something I could actually do! How fun!

  3. Brigid says:

    simple, beautiful, clever, and eco-friendly to boot! love it

  4. Laura says:

    Looks great!

    xx Laura

  5. oh my goodness these are amazing! I’m thinking of a reason to warrant making these immediately! (maybe because it’s friday and I need something AWESOME!)

  6. Kristen Reid says:

    These are gorgeous! Top of my to-do list! Thanks for sharing.

  7. So pretty! I’ve put a special link to this on my blog today in honor of July’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. See http://www.maydreamsgardens.com/ for a list of the garden bloggers participating.

  8. virginia says:

    awesome!! this is so simple and beautiful…i love it.

  9. anrp says:

    what kind of cups did you use? or did i miss that? thanks! so pretty.

  10. Oh my god, I love these. You’ve got my mind reeling with ideas for dip-dying everything in sight, and these containers are perfect. I am totally going to make some and give them away with little succulents in them.

  11. @tishushu says:

    lovely! and I love the hues! So many artificial “summer” colors yelling at me all the time, its the perfect time to see natural colors!

  12. Oh they are gorgeous – at first glance I thought they were made from very delicate china. The colours are beautiful and I love them all the more knowing that they are the result of nautral dyes … just lovely!

  13. Chris says:

    so – with the clear spray fixative you used… is that what made the bio cups hold water and not leak all over the table? Is it just the kind of stuff you use to set chalk drawings or something more intense than that?
    also – now that they are coated with the finish are they no longer biodegradable?

  14. soona says:

    wow! It is soooo beautiful and clever!

  15. Daniella says:

    As an avid dip-dyer, I absolutely adore this project! The colors & gradations are sumptuous. I would to see these cups packed with soil and succulents.

    @Chris There are spray fixatives that make objects water-tight, and it will say so on the label. If you have any doubts, ask someone in your local art or hardware store… Also, I do not know if there is fixative itself that is biodegradable–but I imagine if you want to compost the cup, it will eventually break down.

  16. March says:

    Awesome!! I have no words!
    Thank you!!

  17. Elaine says:

    What kind of paint would you recommend using to those of us who want to give this a shot but do not want to use natural dyes?

  18. I love that ! it’s beautiful !

  19. So simple, beautiful and I love the natural dyes…

  20. crowd SPRING says:

    Well Use a separate pot to make each color. The longer you let it simmer, the more concentrated the color will be. As an avid dip-dyer, I absolutely adore this project! The colors & gradations are sumptuous. I would to see these cups packed with soil and succulents…

  21. Claire says:

    These are gorgeous… what a simple idea for a lovely result! I’m seeing all my scraps of card, mill board, mountboard, watercolour papers in a new light… going to dip them and make things now!

  22. Penny Mason says:

    WOW, oh wow! How gorgeous!

  23. Victoria says:

    These are so wonderful!

  24. Sp pretty. Can these be covered with gloss to protect them and the colors?

  25. Kitty says:

    Breathtaking beautiful and so clever! Thanks for sharing with us!

  26. //svanna says:

    Remind me of the Crystal Spring vases by Wauw design

  27. Neha says:

    wonderful.. and pretty. but whats their life span..

  28. Craig says:

    I’m actually really fond of that wooden tray! haha

  29. Katie says:

    this is an AMAZING idea!!! Can’t wait to try it!!!

  30. I love this! I wonder if you could do this with watercolors or guash. Not as “eco-fabulous,” but the end result would be great too? i’m gonna try it. Thanks for the inspiration design sponge!!!

  31. Sarah says:

    Does anyone think it’s possible to use these as drinking cups? Would really make disposable cups look awesome..

  32. Adrienne says:

    where are cups from? Would love to make these but I’ve never seen these cups anywhere. Can you give us the source?

  33. Lauren Farris says:

    wow. gorgeous. what are some other good flowers to use? or do all flowers work about equally as well? are these cups expensive?

  34. monique says:

    i would love to do this but i dont understand what cups were used

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      they’re paper party cups, you can pick them up at a grocery store or party supply store.


  35. Lorraine says:

    Will certainly try this in the summer when I have lots of flowers and vegetables in my garden. I will simply put a small glass bowl to hold the flowers, i.e. the Ikea glass candle holders.

  36. Brandi says:

    I was thinking about painting my plant terracotta pots and was searching to find out what paints work best, but also how to keep the paint from dissolving or disappearing with time. Love this concept. I have some packets of dye left over from my basket weaving days that will work great. Question: I’ve got acrylic and lacquer fixatives, and the local stores can’t advise me. I hate to loose these creations any sooner than necessary! Can you help me?

  37. Shai says:

    Are there American companies with this type of product?

  38. Patsy Allen says:

    U have just inspired me in some many ways.
    Bless u for sharing……Patsy
    Brisbane Australia 😘😘😘😘


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