Do-it-yourself

Natural dyes, coloring with nature


Today the chemical industry is able to synthesize every shade of color but when this was not possible, artists and craftsmen painted with natural paints, directly obtained from rocks, plants and the like.

An example is given by red dye, obtained mainly from themadder,a plant belonging to the family ofRubiaceae -to which also belongs the lily of the valley-. The fame of La Robbia has its roots in very ancient times: Pliny the Elder, a Latin naturalist of the 1st century AD, talks about plantations of dyeing madder and, in the Holm papyrus it is suggested to combine thered dyeof madder with the blue one to obtain a shade similar topurple.

Less ethical is the choice to synthesizenatural paintsstarting from animals. For centuries, the scarlet red that dyes the robes of cardinals was obtained from two different species of scale insects. In the textile sector, the substances obtained from these insects were able to dye only wool or silk previously treated with alum.

With the horse chestnut leaves you can get numerousnatural dyes,among these is beige, straw yellow, ocher and orange. When it comes tonatural paints, and especially,vegetable colors, you need to join thecolor a substance that acts as a "mordant", that is a substance capable of fixing the color by acting as a bridge, connectingnatural dyeand the base to be painted.

In order not to leave you alone with theoretical notions, we offer you a simple recipe to get onenatural dyewith an intense green. This recipe is mainly used for the coloring of fabrics and with the quantities indicated here it will be possible to successfully carry out a color bath per 100 grams of wool.

Chop 400 grams of fresh broom shoots and let them macerate for a day. Boil the concoction for three hours and let the sprouts cool in the decoction. To dye 100 g of wool, dissolve 3 grams of potassium dichromate and 2 g of tartar separately (in a little water). Pour them into the decoction and boil the wool for an hour. After this preliminary process, boil the wool in the dye bath for an hour and remove all residues, wash and rinse.


Video: Natures Colour Workshop a 7-day workshop exploring Indonesias natural dye traditions (October 2020).