Working With

Natural Dyes


This section is a work in progress, i.e. UNDER CONSTRUCTION.  Check back later, when I hope to have more information about making and using natural dyes.  The pages in this sub-section will include

                   Preparing Natural Dyes

                            General Principles






                            Onion Skins

Photo above: Photograph of a group of Rangrez or dyer caste members at work in India, taken by Shepherd and Robertson in c.1863. This photograph is reproduced as illustration no.183 in volume IV of John Forbes Watson's The People of India (1869). The accompanying text states:

A few large pans for mixing the dyes, trestles for supporting the straining cloth, and a press are all that are used in the simple operations of the craft...The craft is hereditary; and and the secrets of mixing colours, methods of extracting the dyes, of the use of mordants, and of producing every variety of tint that may be necessary, descend from father to son, and have perhaps been little changed in the course of ages...the colours produced by the Indian dyer are for the most part very pure and beautiful. They are of two kinds: one permanent, and used in fabrics which have to bear constant washing; the other fleeting, and intended for temporary use only. In the former catalogue are the yarns for weaving both silk and cotton cloths; in the latter, white cloths, such as muslin, turbans, scarves and the like, are dyed in the piece, to suit the taste of their possessors. Turbans and scarves, for instance, are dyed of the brightest and most delicate tints of scarlet, pink, rose colour, crimson, purple, yellow, orange, and green, by mixtures made from safflower, turmeric, madder, and indigo, &c...the permanence of the Indian dyes in all shades of madder and cochineal, combined with indigo and other colours, has always been remarkable. The garments woven from such dyed yarns are chiefly those worn by women, and have to undergo not only daily washing, but exposure to the sun in drying; yet the colour not only never fails, but seems to grow brighter and clearer from constant exposure.

  Layering        General Principals

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Making Dyes from Natural Products

A group of Rangrez or dyer caste members at work in India, c.1863