Wild Colours - Exciting colours from Natural Dyes
1. Mordant your fabric or yarn and soak it water for a few hours.
2. Make a paste with 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of extract and 2 or 3 teaspoons of warm water.
3. Fill a 5 to 10 litre saucepan a third full with warm water and add the dissolved extract. Some extracts need more stirring than others to dissolve properly.
4. Add the pre-wetted mordanted fibre.
5. Bring the dye bath to simmering point slowly (do not go over 60°C for madder) and then simmer gently for 45 to 60 minutes. Stir gently from time to time.
6. Leave overnight to cool and dry your dyed fibre in the shade and away from intense heat.
Note: If your extract has become hard you can still use it. Put the extract in a heat-proof container and add a bit of hot water. Leave it for 5 minutes stirring from time to time. If necessary, pour the dissolved dye into the saucepan you are going to use for dyeing and add more hot water to the extract.
The amount you use depends on the particular dye extract and on the colour you want to achieve. On average, 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of extract will dye 50 grams of fibre a strong colour, or 100 grams of fibre a lighter colour. We advise you to experiment, as dye colours will vary with the type of fibre, the mordant and the quality of water. Always dye a small sample first before dyeing a large quantity of fibre.
For strong extracts (for example chlorophyllin, cochineal, brazilwood and logwood), it is best to use only 2 grams of extract per 100g of mordanted wool. If you want a darker shade, then you need to mordant the wool again and make a second dye bath with another 2 grams of extract. Dyeing twice is recommended instead of using a more concentrated bath.
As an alternative, you may like to add 25 grams of fibre to a dye bath made with 5 grams of extract to a get a dark colour and then add another 25 grams of fibre for a lighter colour. Depending on the extracts you are using, you may be able to add further batches of fibre.
Dye extracts are very sensitive to moisture and some types will go hard with time (e.g. dyers greenweed, sorghum, goldenrod), especially if left in the open.
Note: If your extract has become hard you can still use it. Put the extract in a heat-proof container and add a bit of hot water. Leave it for 5 minutes stirring from time to time. If necessary, pour the dissolved dye into the saucepan you are going to use for dyeing and add more hot water to the extract (see How to Use Dye Extracts above).
Avoid measuring the dye or storing it in a steamy kitchen. Some extracts can change colour as well as going hard (coreopsis for example, goes very hard and black when left in an open bag). This does not seem to affect the results, however, and the extracts will still produce good colours. Hardened powder is, however, more difficult to measure. Therefore, expel as much air as possible from the plastic bag when re-sealing it. Seal it well and put the closed bag inside another grip seal bag. If well looked after, the extracts will last for quite a long time.
Learn more about dyeing with natural dye extracts:
A. Why use natural dye extracts
(opens a new page)
B. How to dye with natural dye extracts
C. Instructions for each extract
(opens a new page)
D. Painting & Printing with natural dye extracts (coming soon)
E. Gum tragacanth for natural dyes extracts
F. Soy milk for natural dyes extracts