Natural Dye Extracts

Although nothing can quite compare with growing one’s own dye plants & being able to complete the dyeing process from start to finish using home-grown materials, I am very enthusiastic about the natural dye extracts now readily available on the market. These extracts are extremely versatile & easy to use & all the classic, traditional dyes are now available in extract form.They dissolve in water, so there is no need to simmer the dye materials to extract the colour, and 2 or more extracts can be mixed together to create further shades. Although they may appear expensive at first glance, in fact they are good value as very little is needed for full colours.  I have written about extract dyes in “Colours from Nature”, my latest book, which gives full details for their use. More recently I have been trying out some new extracts.

In the photo above, the upper 2 samples have been dyed with “Sorghum” extract (the lower of these 2 samples is from the exhaust dyebath) & the lowest sample with “Teal” extract. These are both available from DT Craft & Design.

Sorghum, or Guinea Corn, Sorghum vulgare, is an interesting source of dye colour, as well as being a foodstuff. Native to parts of Africa & Asia, Guinea corn was also introduced elsewhere, including Europe & America. Although it is not well-known in Europe as a dyestuff, it was used to dye wool in Egypt & in Sudan to dye reeds & grasses for matting. It was an important dyestuff for both textiles & leather in other parts of Africa & was also used in Japan & China. Sorghum has good fastness properties. The parts used are the stalks, leaf sheaths & corn husks. On wool, sorghum extract gives colours similar to the rust shades from madder. I tried it both without a mordant & with an alum mordant & found the colours were virtually identical, so a mordant may not be necessary.

“Teal” extract is intriguing, especially as so far I have not managed to discover the plant sources from which the colour is made. I expect this is a trade secret. But it gives a beautiful green/blue/turquoise shade, which is a rare colour from natural dyes &, in my experience, only possible when indigo is used in combination with at least 1 other dye.

More about extract dyes later.

4 replies
  1. Tricia Rawnsley
    Tricia Rawnsley says:

    I’m going to have to find that teal extract! I started a small natural dye business about a year ago, and hadn’t come across that yet. Thanks for continuing to teach us all who love your books!

  2. cedar
    cedar says:

    So glad I found your site and so glad you are writing a blog…I am sure more and more people will appreciate it so keep on writing. I love your books and now have to buy the new one. I have been dyeing for the past 40 years and started with natural dyes and now have returned to natural dyes with your help…and with lots of mushrooms and lichen etc. I have a site about my meanderings and will share your site on my blog…just received some woad seeds from a friend from Germany so am keen to try and your article is great…

  3. Debbie Bamford
    Debbie Bamford says:

    Me again, if it’s any help, the Green colour that I stock in my Living Colour range is made from fustic and tannin as a base – the rest is the trade secret! I’m not sure what Debbie’s is though.


Comments are closed.