Natural Dyeing

There is something to be said about using colors you find in the natural world to beautify your life. Normally, that’s done by bringing flowers into your home. Besides having all the wonderful colors, you also have the scents the flowers give off. But there actually is another way we can do this.

For centuries, people have been using nature to dye fabrics and fibers, even to make paint. The wonderful thing is that we can still do this today. What is interesting is that depending on the working or energies we would like to attract, not only can we use color magick with our naturally dyed yarn and fabrics, but also the energy of the botanicals and herbs themselves.

You will need some basic equipment: nonreactive pots, scales, a tub or bucket for rinsing, and something to gently pick up and move the material around. Besides the basic equipment, you will also need a mordant. This is generally a metallic salt that helps the dye to be absorbed into the fiber. You will also need dye material and, of course, water. The most reliable color to obtain in nature is yellow. You can also find all the rest and achieve some unique colors through either mixing or using the same dye bath more than once. The more fiber you dye from the same dye pot, the more the color will become lighter and change. You can also do what is called shifting the color of some dyes by either raising or lowering the Ph of the dye bath. Even using different mordants can change the color.

COFF actually has extension classes on both basic natural dying and advanced natural dyeing. So if you are so inclined to join the school, then you would have access to those extension classes for free. For some reading on natural dying, I have various books that I own listed below for you to explore if this interests you. This is to open you up to the possibility of the sheer magick that the dyeing process is. I am sure the purest would consider it alchemy, and I can actually see that. No matter what category you place this in, the energy that would be imbued in those fibers would be immense and should not be taken lightly. Using hand-dyed fibers would be a project of great achievement that would yield great results if done with a true heart.

  • The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing, J.N. Liles. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1990; ISBN: 978-0870496707.
  • The Chemistry of Natural Dyes (Palette of Color Series), Dianne N. Epp. Cincinnati, OH: Terrific Science Press; ISBN: 978-1883822064.
  • The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing: Techniques and Recipes for Dyeing Fabrics, Yarns, & Fibers at Home, Eva Lambert & Tracy Kendall. Fort Collins, CO: Interweave Publisher, 2010; ISBN: 978-1596681811.
  • The Craft of Natural Dyeing: Glowing Colours From the Plant World, Jenny Dean. Kent, England: Search Press, 1994; ISBN: 978-0855327446.
  • The Dyer’s Companion, Elijah Bemiss. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1974; ISBN: 978-0486206011.
  • A Dyer’s Garden. From Plant to Pot, Growing Dyes for Natural Fibers, Rita Buchanan. Fort Collins, CO, Interweave Press, 1995; ISBN: 978-1883010072.
  • Dyes From American Native Plants, Lynne Richards & Ronald J. Tyrl. Portland, OR: Timber Press, 2005; ISBN: 978-0881926682.
  • The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes: Personalize Your Craft With Organic Colors From Acorns, Blackberries, Coffee, and Other Everyday Ingredients, Sasha Duerr. Portland, OR: Timber Press, 2011; ISBN: 978-1604690712.
  • Mushrooms Are to Dye For, Carol Lee. Encampment, WY: The Grand Encampment Schoolhouse Press, 2000s; Bookseller Inventory: BOOKS010448I.
  • Mushrooms for Color, Miriam C. Rice (author) & Dorothy Beebee (illustrator). Eureka, CA: Mad River Press, Inc., 1733, reprint 1980; ISBN: 978-0916422196.
  • Natural Dyeing, Jackie Crook. Sterling Publishing: Lark Crafts Books, 2007; ISBN: 978-1600592225.
  • Natural Dyes, Gwen Fereday. London: British Museum Press; ISBN: 978-0714125657.
  • A Weaver’s Garden: Growing Plants for Natural Dyes and Fibers, Rita Buchanan. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1999; ISBN: 978-0486407128.


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