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Natural dyes: 10 gold rules to dye

Dyeing with natural dyes never seemed to be easy

If you follow Paola Barzanò’s advice on natural dyes, a well-known scholar in this field and our special consultant, each and everyone can manage to get great results.


Take note!

Before you start to dye with natural dyes it is very important to have a notebook for dyeing recipes at hand, where you can write them with order and precision.

Also we suggest you to have a pair of rubber gloves and an apron to protect you.

Please note that natural dyes (unlike synthetic ones) only dye natural materials.

The 10 gold rules are the following:

  • For dye bath with natural dyes we recommend you to use large stainless steel or enamel pots (capacity 25/35 liters).
  • The quality of water is of great importance. Avoid hard water. The best results are  guaranteed by using rain water or purified water, especially when dyeing cellulose fibers.
  • Weigh the dry material you want to be dyed. The weighing is essential in order to calculate the weight of the mordant and the natural dyes to be used for every dye bath.
  • Rinse with water and neutral soap. We suggest you to add a tablespoon of baking soda for cellulose fabrics (such as cotton, linen, canopy, bamboo, ramie…).
  • Prepare the water for your dye bath in a large pot: you have to calculate a 20 to 1 ratio between the water volume and the weight of the material you wish to dye. For example,  if you want to dye 100g of fabric you need 2 liters water.
  • Wet the material before adding it  to the mordant and the dye bath.
  • According to the type of natural dye you have chosen, you need to prepare the material with a mordent bath. This is a very important procedure in order to guarantee shine and  solidity of colour  and it differs from fiber to fiber. Fibers of animal origin (and/or relevant spun yarns and fabrics) have a greater affinity with natural colours and they only need a mordent bath. Vegetal fibers (and relevant spun yarns and fabrics) made of a cellulose base, need a two-phase process with mordent, instead.
140 cm wide Silk Chiffon 6 - Raw Colors
Natural White
1 m € 13,13
2 m € 25,74
5 m € 62,37
140 cm wide Silk Pongee 05 - Raw Color
Natural White
1 m € 13,38
2 m € 26,23
5 m € 63,56
165 cm wide Wool Gauze - Raw Colors
Raw White
1 m € 26,74
2 m € 52,41
5 m € 127,00
Natural Indigo - 75 g
Natural Indigo - gr. 75
1 pc. € 22,21
  • Dissolve natural dyes extract in 1 liter of warm water with an iron tablespoon. Make sure there are no lumps. Then transfer it into a large pot, keeping the bath ratio between the volume of water and the weight of the dry material at 20/1
  • Maintain carefully the temperatures required in the recipes of individual natural dyes in the dye bath.
  • Rinse the material after the dye bath under running water until the water no longer has any trace of color.

Please note that dye baths with natural dyes end up to fade according the type of fiber you have used.

Usually the first dye bath is not consumed at the end of the process, and it still contains the dyeing active ingredients which can be reused for a second dye bath. The second dye bath gives a lighter result. Sometimes it is possible to reuse it for a third bath.

While the results of the first dye bath on fibers (and/or relevant spun yarns and fabrics) are reproducible - if you follow the recipe and take note of all the process with precision – the results you may obtain with the second and third dye bath are not reproducible because we do not know exactly how much colour still remains  after the first bath.

It is always worth reusing the dye bath anyway!

The baths following the first will give you very beautiful colours, unsaturated and with light tones.

Finally, here you have some tips to protect your fibres, yarns and fabrics dyed with natural pigments.

  • Wash at low temperature;
  • Avoid the use of aggressive washing powders, with bleaching agents;
  • Choose liquid, neutral soaps, for delicate fibers;
  • Dry in the shade, not in full sun.

What do you think about it all?

If you liked this article maybe you would also enjoy Mulberry silk laps: Caroline’s experiments.

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