Natural Dyes

Colors on the Farm

The dyeing operation begins by washing the spinning oil from the yarn, then immersing it for 2 hours in a 200° F mordant bath of Alum and/or Cream of Tartar that will prepare the yarn to accept the natural dyes. After mordanting, the yarn is quickly rinsed.  The mordanted yarn is dyed by immersing it while still wet for 1½ hours in a 180° F bath which contains one or more of the following extracts.

After coming from the dye bath the yarn is rinsed several times until the rinse water is sufficiently clear; it is then air dried.

COCHINEAL from the female Dactylopus Coccus insect that lives on the Prickly Pear cactus of Peru; it produces pink to fuchsia colors; combined with Madder it gives a commune red.

MADDER from the root of the Rubia Tintoria bush of Turkey; it produces orange to cherry to fuchsia colors corresponding to the pH changes brought on by adding vinegar or soda.

CUTCH from the heartwood of the Acacia Catechu tree of Burma; it produces camel to caramel colors, combined with Madder it gives bright apricots.

FUSTIC  from the heartwood of the Chlorphora Tinctoria tree of Brazil; it produces dense yellows; combined with Logwood it gives olive greens.

LOGWOOD from the heartwood of the Haematoxylon Campechianum tree of Venezuela; it produces purple-grays; combined with other dye extracts, it deepens their colors.

OSAGE from the heartwood of the Maculura Pomifera tree of Oklahoma; it produces a bright yellow, overdyed with Indigo it gives the teals of the sea.

INDIGO from the leaves of the Indigofera Suffruticosa plant of India; it produces blue-jean blues; overdyeing Cochineal with Indigo gives periwinkles and plums.

Dyeing with Indigo is a different procedure; it involves reducing the oxygen in the Indigo dye bath then dipping the yarn into the pot for several minutes; as you pull the yarn is from the bath it is green, but when it contacts the oxygen in the air it turns blue before your eyes. Overdyeing a Madder dyed orange yarn with Indigo gives warm gray-browns.