Saturday, September 19, 2009



The dyes can be obtained from leaves, bark, hulls, fruit, berries, nuts, grasses, flowers, lichen, insects and minerals.

Most plants will yield some color when boiled and processed for dye. The question is whether those colors obtained are worth the effort. In most cases the resulting color will be pale yellow, beige or pink and have little strength.

The dye substances can be used fresh or may be dried. It is best to gather them when they are in the best state for collection as a dye plant. To obtain the best color results they should be used immediately after they are gathered. Leaves should be gathered in early summer when they are young; flowers just after coming to bloom before the sun has a chance to fade them; the whole plant when the flower is in bloom; fruit when well ripened and bruised, roots when the plant has died down in the fall; bark should be collected in the spring.

To store for future use, the green parts and flowers should be dried out of direct sunlight. Dried plants should be stored in a dark place.


The following instructions are general directions for the boiling down of fresh or dried leaves, bark, hulls, roots, grasses, flowers and fruit.

1. The amount of water and dye material added to the pot are standard and may be increased or decreased according to the color desired.

2. The larger pieces of bark, roots, twigs, hulls and grasses should be chopped into small pieces. If the pieces are too difficult to chop, they may be soaked overnight or chopped in a blender or mashed after they have been softened by boiling.

3. The dyes are extracted using heat and a series of repeated boiling . The number of extractions depend on the dye substance.

4. To boil, the specified amount of water is put into an enamel, stainless steel or glass pot. A copper, aluminum, or chipped enamel pot will affect the color of the dye. Pots made of these metals will react with the dyes and mordants.

5. To speed up the boiling process the dye material may be added to hot water.

6. Boil the dyes uncovered for the required amount of time.

7. The dyes may be stirred with glass rods, dowels, wooden or stainless steel spoons

8. When the dye has been completely extracted and the depth of color has been achieved by combining dye liquors. Strain the dye through a finely woven nylon or polyester cloth bag or a piece of nylon fabric lining a plastic colander. This will filter out any fine particles that might remain to stain the fabric. Do not strain through a metal sieve unless it is made of stainless steel. Do not strain through a cotton or natural fiber bag as the bag will absorb and weaken the dye.