Throughout history, people have dyed their textiles using common, locally available materials, but scarce dyestuffs that produced brilliant and permanent colors such as the natural invertebrate dyes, Tyrian purple and crimson kermes, became highly prized luxury items in the ancient and medieval world. Plant-based dyes such as woad, indigo, saffron, and madder were raised commercially and were important trade goods in the economies of Asia and Europe. Across Asia and Africa, patterned fabrics were produced using resist dyeing techniques to control the absorption of color in piece-dyed cloth. Dyes such as cochineal and logwood were brought to Europe by the Spanish treasure fleets, and the dyestuffs of Europe were carried by colonists to America.
Natural sources of dye come from many places including food, flowers, weeds, bark, moss, leaves, seeds, mushrooms, lichens and even minerals. Today, a select group of artisans are committed to preserving the art of making natural dyes from plants. Many use their talent to teach others of the importance and historical significance of the dyes. Natural dyes were used as war paint and to color skin and hair long before they were used to dye fiber.
"What color is that?"
Orange and Yellow
Yellow Onion Skins
Leaves and Petals
Natural plant dyes are easy to make – they only require both copious amounts of petals, stalks, or leaves … and patience. The patience quote is two-fold. You must wait for your plants to grow in the garden or are ready to be foraged in the wild, and be willing to allow the natural matter to simmer long enough to process out the color.