Natural dyeing has been around for thousands of years and has been used by cultures all around the world. Some of the earliest natural dyes were made from plants like indigo, madder, and woad, which were grown specifically for dyeing purposes. Over time, different cultures developed their own techniques and recipes for natural dyeing, using ingredients like cochineal, turmeric, and logwood.
Keep reading to take a closer look at the different types of ingredients that can be used for natural dyeing, as well as the process involved.
Types of Ingredients
Natural dyes often produce colours that are more muted, vibrant and earthy than synthetic dyes, which some people find to be more aesthetically pleasing. It is a colourful world, with a diverse range of natural resources and ingredients that can be used to create stunning hues. These dyes can be grouped into four categories:
- Plant-based dyes are increasingly popular. Their sources, like indigo, madder, and weld among others are grown naturally, offer a range of vibrant colours and are a great alternative to synthetic dyes, which can be harmful to the environment and human health.
- Food-based dyes are colourful gems found in fruits, vegetables, and spices, offering unique and vibrant shades of colour. Some examples of easily available sources are turmeric, beetroot, pomegranate rind, orange peel, spinach, and blueberries. Not only are they safe to consume, but these dyes are also widely used in textiles.
- Animal-based dyes like cochineal and shellfish have been used for centuries to create deep and rich shades. However, the use of animal-based dyes is controversial, as it raises concerns about animal cruelty. Many natural dyers are moving away from animal-based dyes and towards more sustainable and ethical options.
- Mineral-based dyes such as iron and copper offer a range of earthy tones. They are less commonly used dyes but still play an important role in natural dyeing. They also require specific preparation and dyeing techniques to achieve the desired colour, and can be used to create unique and beautiful effects.
Natural dyeing is a complex and time-consuming process—from growing and finding the right natural resources to making the dye, it all takes months. And even when dyers make the colours while following the right recipes, they sometimes turn into some other different colour, which is still beautiful nonetheless. That is why it is said that cooking and natural dyeing have a lot in common. There is always a great deal of diversity and individuality in the recipes and the final outcomes because every batch that is produced differs from the one before it.
The process of natural dyeing involves several steps that must be followed carefully in order to achieve good results. Here's a closer look at the process that others and even we at Apanakah follow:
- Preparing the Fabric:
Before the fabric can be dyed, it must be prepared by being washed to remove any dirt or impurities. Then, it is mordanted to help the dye adhere to the fabric fibers. Mordants are substances that bind to both the fabric and the dye, creating a stronger bond between the two. Common mordants used in natural dyeing include alum, iron, and tannin.
- Choosing and Preparing the Dye Material:
Natural dyes can be made from a wide variety of plant, animal, and mineral sources. Common plant-based materials used for dyeing include madder root, indigo, and woad and mineral sources include rust and copper. Once the dye material has been chosen, it must be prepared by chopping, grinding, or boiling it to extract the colour compounds.
- Creating the Dye Bath:
The dye material is then added to a pot of water and boiled to create a dye bath. The amount of dye material and water used will depend on the desired colour and the strength of the dye. Some dyes require a larger amount of dye material to achieve a strong hue, while others may require less. It's important to note that the pH of the water can also affect the colour of the dye, so some natural dyers will add ingredients such as vinegar or lemon juice to adjust the ph.
- Dyeing the Fabric:
Once the dye bath has been prepared, the fabric is added to the pot and simmered for an extended period of time to allow the dye to penetrate the fabric fibers. The length of time the fabric should be left in the dye bath will depend on the desired colour and the strength of the dye. Some dyes may require several hours of simmering, while others may only need a short amount of time.
- Washing and Finishing:
After the fabric has been dyed, it must be washed in cold water to remove any excess dye. This process is called "washing out" the fabric. The fabric is then washed with a mild detergent to remove any remaining traces of dye and mordant. Finally, the fabric is hung up to dry before being made into the final product. And from there, it's ready to be worn and adorned by our lovely customers.
Natural dyeing is a process that demands a significant amount of time, skill, and patience to achieve desirable outcomes. By using natural dyes, we can reduce our dependence on synthetic dyes, which are often made from non-renewable resources and can have a negative impact on the environment. Even while natural dyeing may not be a practical option for mass production, it offers a rewarding experience for those who appreciate the process and the beauty of natural hues.