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Author Topic: .basic dyeing  (Read 2299 times)


  • Joined Oct 2009
.basic dyeing
« on: January 02, 2013, 09:09:08 pm »
As things get nearer to self reliance in most things  here , i want to be able to dye fibres , wool , cotton , hemp , linen , all natural fibres , without resorting to buying dyes etc.
I did dye with natural plant material , onion skins and the like years ago , but the details have long since left my head .
So i want to dye fibre as non chemically as possible , organic dyeing ?
Does anyone do this , or know of a good book on the subject ?
I am not arty farty in any way shape or form , just basic colours like dark blue , green , black , red etc .
I am not interested in experimental stuff either , just tried and tested age old techniques .
None of the fibres will be man made at all , only home grown plant fibre and sheeps wool .
Thanks in advance for any pointers in the right direction peeps .


  • Joined Aug 2012
  • Cumbria/N Yorks border
Re: .basic dyeing
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2013, 10:55:16 pm »
Wild Colour by Jenny Dean is very good.
There's been a second edition so you might get the early one cheap.


  • Joined Oct 2009
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2013, 12:00:48 am »
Thanks jk , amazon site won't let me search for some reason now , but i found her website ,  , excellent stuff , just what i was looking for .
Can't work out what is stopping me searching on amazon though , i have been searching and buying on amazon via this mobile for a year or so now ? , technology eh ?
Thanks again mate .


  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: .basic dyeing
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2013, 12:58:44 am »
<<.....just basic colours like dark blue , green , black , red etc .>>
The easiest and most common colour you will get from plants is yellow.  A good plant for this is weld which tends to grow on post industrial wasteground.
You need to work a bit harder to get the colours you like.   
You could use indigo for blue but you get nearly as rich a colour from woad which you can grow yourself - very easy to grow if you can find the seed. 
Green is just blue and yellow - generally you dye one first then the other separately. Jenny Dean says Comfrey gives a nice soft green but I struggle with the mucus the plant produces, and because my well water is iron-rich it saddens the colours so I have got a dull khaki. 
In fact I find that Jenny Dean is either very optimistic about the brightness of the colours she can produce, or she is very skilled - probably the latter  8)
For black you need something like crottle which is a lichen, or you could try two dark colours together, but a true and lasting black is very difficult to achieve.
For red you would need to grow Madder, although you can use Lady's Bedstraw but it tends to give a lighter pink and you would need to dig up an awful lot of plants to get enough roots.
For many colours you need a mordant to help the colour to stick to the fibre - alum gives nice bright colours and is a naturally occurring compound.  If you live in coastal Yorkshire you might be able to dig it from the cliffs.  Rhubarb leaves can be used as a natural mordant.
For growing dye plants, the favourites all have latin names ending in 'tinctoria' - anthemis tinctoria, genista tinctoria, isatis tinctoria.   You could start growing the plants this year - many are annuals, some of which can be dried, others need to be used fresh.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2013, 01:01:47 am by Fleecewife »
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.


  • Joined Oct 2009
« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2013, 11:30:10 pm »
Thanks fw , i will be setting up a specific bed for plants to be used dying , so will be growing woad etc .
In Wales not n yorks and no transport , so i only go a few miles away from home .
Rhubarb leaves i can do ok though .
My colour choice is purely practical , to hide the dirt lol . I don't do white or pastels , and if i get given stuff that is white or pastel it doesn't stay that way for long .
I buy cheap cotton socks and rugby pants/trousers that are black at first . The dye ends up on me more than the clothes , hate to think what chems are in it though .
Thanks again .


  • Joined Feb 2012
  • South Aberdeenshire
Re: .
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2013, 10:43:52 am »
My colour choice is purely practical , to hide the dirt lol .

I know the problem... I wear this wonderful Aran jumper a lot - got a load of very good wool quite cheaply once through another forum... The colour, or lack of it, is a problem, though! Now I don't mind too much what I look like, but I also try to not to look too antisocial around the neighbours... And the jumper in natural sheep colour just shows every little drop of coffee etc on it. (Must be my age; I'm good at dribbling tea and other hot drinks onto myself...  ::) )
So I thought if I dyed it a dark colour, that might hide the stains. Woad seems to be the answer...

Right - let's ask google where I can get the seeds!


  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: .basic dyeing
« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2013, 11:22:36 am »
I am such a  :dunce:   :D   There I was bleating on about how to make a black dye, when I have a field full of black sheep out there.  Save yourself the bother of dyeing wool by keeping sheep in the blacks and browns you need.  I have also found that where you do need a dark dye, walnut shells and oak galls (and maybe bark) will give them, especially if you use iron as a mordant (you can make your own with a jamjar of rusty nails).  The black will be more of a dark brown but you will be well camouflaged in those colours.
Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

 Love your soil - it's the lifeblood of your land.

Mad Goatwoman of Madeley

  • Joined Sep 2011
  • Telford
Re: .basic dyeing
« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2013, 11:56:11 am »
Sheep come in quite a range of colours.  The ex and I specialised in undyed wool and had various shades from white through various greys to almost black, and through ranges of brown.  Lovely.  My particular favourite was the catlemilk moorit.


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