How to create a natural indigo fructose dye vat

How to create a natural indigo fructose dye vat

Indigo can be used to dye any natural fibres. It gives beautiful shades of blue and is definitely one of our favourite natural dyes to work with as the process feels so magical.

The colour achieved depends on the type of vat, the concentration of indigo, and the number of dips. 

Indigotin (the dye component of indigo powder) is insoluble in water, so to use it for dyeing it must be reduced to a water-soluble form.

All indigo vats need three things: 1) Indigo 2) A reducing agent 3) A Base.

Reducing agents are usually chemicals but we can use sugar instead.

A reducing agent lowers the oxidation state of the indigo molecule, transforming indigotin into leuco-indigo — which is soluble in water at room temperature. If we just add powdered indigo to water it will remain in pigment form, suspended but not dissolved.

In order for the reducing agent to act on the indigo, a basic environment is required. Chemically speaking, a base is the opposite of an acid. The reduction of indigo requires a basic (alkaline) solution. A recommended base for an indigo vat is calx (calcium hydroxide) also known as lime, pickling lime, or hydrated lime.

When the indigo is dissolved, the dye bath is a greeny-yellow colour. On the top of the vat, air oxidizes the indigo, resulting in blue indigo pigment. Resting on the bottom of the vat is the sediment consisting of any undissolved indigo, reducing agent or base. 

Ahead of your cotton fabric you need to scour it. This removes any oils which may be sitting in the fabric. You can do this by washing in a washing machine at 40 degrees with some ecover detergent.

The Fructose Vat

Don’t forget to scour your cloth or yarn before dyeing.

For a vat of about 8 litres

— 30 g (1 oz) powdered natural indigo

— 90 g (3 oz) fructose

— 60 g (2 oz) calx (calcium hydroxide)

Fill a 10 litre (2.5 gallon) stainless steel vat 3/4 full with hot water.

Add the fructose and stir to dissolve.

Add the indigo to the vat. Sprinkle on the surface of the vat and stir in until well mixed.

Add half the calx (reserve the second half if you find you need to raise the pH). Sprinkle on the surface of the vat and stir the vat gently. Do not do too quickly. You do not want air in the liquid. Wait for a few minutes. Then stir again. Repeat this stirring three or four times.

Heat until the liquid reaches 50°C (120° F). You may then turn off the heat. In about 45 mins - hour the vat develops a bronzy surface and a small dark blue indigo flower. The interior of the vat will be a clear yellow green.

Fructose can be used to quickly build a strong vat. However, fructose vats can also collapse easily or be difficult to revive. For this reason, we recommend making a smaller vat when using fructose. A smaller vat also uses less indigo and so (if your vat collapses) there is less dye wasted.

Note: Sucrose (refined table sugar) is not a reducing sugar and so will not work.

In order to achieve the shibori effect on our knickers we used natural rubber elastic bands wrapped around each section of the knickers. Take a look at our instagram reels to see this process in action!

Enjoy experimenting with Indigo.

Tag us in your experiments @bedstrawandmadder



Meet the Tibetan Herbalist: Lucy Jones

Meet the Tibetan Herbalist: Lucy Jones

Today we have the honour of introducing you to the queen of herbalism herself Lucy of The Myrobalan clinic in Castle Cary. I met Lucy when I first moved to Dorset about 10 years ago and she has been supporting my health ever since.

What I love most is Lucy’s close relationships and intimate knowledge of the plants themselves which she has nurtured through foraging and growing them herself. Unlike a lot of herbalists, she creates her own powerful tinctures.

Welcome Lucy.

I was often told that the herbs that grow around us are the ones we most need and those grown in hotter countries are the most powerful just as plant dyes grown in hotter countries provide brighter colours. Is there any truth in this?

In general, I love the idea that our local environment offers us everything we need to be healthy. It’s true that the plants which grow around us are very often the ones that are best suited to our constitution but then there’s also the situation where a herb suddenly appears when we need it. Let me give you a few examples:

One of my patients was establishing a new garden and found that a huge amount of Shepherd’s Purse sprung up where the soil had been cultivated. A few months later she realised that she needed fresh Shepherd’s Purse to help resolve heavy menstrual bleeding. Shepherds Purse is amazing at treating excessive bleeding, whether that’s post partum or heavy menstrual bleeding but to be most effective it must be prepared with fresh plant. This person was able to gather fresh Shepherd’s Purse for teas and it really helped her.

An elderly patient found Eyebright in her field after many years of it not growing there. That same season she developed quite irritated sore eyes and was able to make an Eyebright eye wash which she described as a ‘life saver’.

One last example, a patient of mine was a very keen gardener who liked to grow vegetables, herbs and fruit. He never used chemicals but always kept everything weed free and tidy. One evening, I was just packing up to go home from my clinic and he rang me complaining of a sudden painful urinary tract infection. He wanted to avoid antibiotics so I suggested that the best thing to help him was Couch grass, however I realised it was unlikely that he would have any growing in his garden. He said: “On the contrary, I do actually have a patch of Couch which has sprung up this year and I decided to leave it”. He harvested some rhizomes and made a tea straight away. Within two days he was absolutely fine.

There are lots of stories like this. I love that they illustrate the value of noticing and having a relationship with the plants around us.

Having said all of this, I also feel that having some herbal influences from further afield can be very helpful when needed. As someone who’s also trained in Tibetan Medicine, I like to prescribe spicy medicines such as Cardamom, Cloves, Chilli and Ginger alongside locally grown medicines.

It's very interesting that you say plant dyes grown in hotter countries are brighter. I hadn’t really thought about that before but yes of course that really makes sense. There’s a stronger element of ‘fire’ in plants grown in hot climates and one of the qualities of the fire element is having or resulting in a stronger colour.

There are lots of herbalists out there and thankfully it is growing in interest.

What makes your herbalism unique?

Goodness, that’s quite a question! I think that in general, herbal medicine is very much about the relationship between practitioner, patient and the herbs. There’s a very special alchemy that happens when these three things come together. For that reason, you can say that all herbal practitioners offer a unique approach. We all share the objective of treating people with herbal medicine but within that there’s a lovely range of therapeutic approaches. This is wonderful because it means that patients can choose a practitioner that really resonates with them and helps them to feel comfortable in their health journey. 

Re my herbalism being unique, I suppose you could say that my own way of working is unusual because the majority of the herbs that I prescribe have been grown or gathered by me, and all of the herbs I prescribe have been processed by hand into medicines. There’s a lot of care and mindfulness which goes into the process from seed to medicine and it’s an absolute joy to work in this way.

Another unique point is that, although I’m a western herbal practitioner based in the west, my approach is also very strongly influenced by Tibetan medicine. Tibetan medicine is a beautiful and sophisticated system based on a deep appreciation of interconnectedness and respect for the Earth and the medicines which come from it. In Tibetan Medicine it’s actually considered unethical to prescribe medicines to patients if lifestyle and dietary factors haven’t been addressed first. I think that this is very wise since it helps patients to truly understand how to stay well. In my clinic, herbal treatment is most often a temporary support whilst a patient makes the required lifestyle changes. This approach means that patients don’t become dependent on a herbalist or their medicines. It also means that the herbs are at less risk of being over exploited. When I say ‘over exploited’, I’m thinking about when people take a scarce herb daily to prop up an unsustainable lifestyle. If someone is taking a scarce herb like Slippery Elm or Goldenseal every day because it allows them to continue to live a lifestyle which basically makes them ill, this exploits their body as well as the ecology of our planet. A small change in lifestyle or diet could make all the difference to their health and it could reduce their need to contribute to over harvesting of scarce or protected species.

Your second book: ‘A Working Herbal Dispensary – Respecting Herbs as Individuals’ is due out in May. It’s about the virtues of herbs themselves and you talk about getting people to know herbs as individuals rather than lists of 'what they do'.

Clearly you have a strong relationship with each of the herbs you gather and prescribe. How do you build and deepen the relationship you have with the plants you work with?

I think it’s inevitable that, when we grow, gather and process our own herbal medicines, we can’t help but to build a deep connection with them. It’s not even a conscious thing, it just happens as though the herb has seeped into our very being. For example, if you’ve spent many hours picking Calendula flowers in the right weather conditions, carefully laying them onto drying trays, tending them to make sure that they’re dried properly and then storing them in a way that ensures their medicinal constituents are preserved, you inevitably really care about them making a difference and not being wasted.

Also, when we work with herbs regularly, we’re constantly blown away by how amazingly positive their influence can be. These plant beings really change people’s lives. Once we start to see that, we have to respect them as beings in their own right, as opposed to objects which can be ‘used’ to treat certain health conditions.

I do sometimes sit with my herbs and I keep a contemplative herbal journal. I do feel that this deepens my relationship with them and it often brings new insights but honestly the majority of my herbal relationship building activities are just through working with herbs day in and day out. We’ve formed quite a team over the years. 

What is your favourite plant or herbal combination and why?

I don’t have favourites as I love all of my herbs but I will tell you about one wonderful combination that I prescribe quite often. That is Rose and Hawthorn. These are both members of the Rose family and share a calming and uplifting quality which can be very helpful for patients who are in the process of working through a bereavement or digesting a past trauma. In these cases, the pressure to try and put on a brave face or to carry on with normal life responsibilities can lead to the grief or trauma being held in their bodies rather than being processed gradually. Sometimes this situation of holding grief can last for many years and people may be unaware of how much is still ‘stuck’.

Rose petals have a longstanding association with gladdening the heart as well as gently supporting the liver. Hawthorn is well known as a herb which helps to support the physical heart but in doing so it also helps the heart area to release emotional trauma and grief. When prescribing this combination, I choose Rose petals and Hawthorn blossom either as a tea or in capsule form. It’s quite extraordinary to see how they gently support people in navigating this difficult and challenging emotional terrain. The change is gradual and steady, it doesn’t suppress our feelings but it I holds our hands while we face them. I’ve lost count of the times that, after taking a course of this pair of herbs, patients have told me “I’d forgotten what it was like to feel spontaneously happy and now I sing to myself whilst I’m walking the dog or working in the garden.”

For the people out there who feel empowered to start their own herbal first aid cabinet at home what is your advice? Where can they start?

Ooooh this is a great question! There’s so much scope to make herbs a central part of a home first aid cabinet. I would suggest that the best thing to do is to be curious about the herbs which grow in your area and find out which virtues they have. There are plenty of resources online and lots of herbal books to choose from.

For example, if you have Plantain leaves (Plantago lanceolata or Plantago major) growing in your garden, you have a fabulous first aid plant right there. It’s perfect for insect bites and stings, blisters, burns and cuts. It can be applied as a poultice or you can make it into an ointment or salve. You can also drink it as a tea to help soothe inflammation in the gut, urinary tract or to help calm an irritated cough.

To start with the herbs that are growing in your area means that you can properly get to know them, see them growing and observe them at different growth stages. You can easily research their properties and see how they can fit into your home first aid cabinet. It’s about understanding their many virtues not just categorising them as ‘this herb is used for that situation’.

As well as being curious about the herbs growing in your locality, I would also suggest learning about the medicinal virtues of common kitchen spices. These are a great resource as they are readily available and a handy first aid option if you are away from your home apothecary. So, Caraway seed is a great option to calm diarrhoea and to relieve griping. Garlic is a powerful natural antibiotic and Nutmeg can be helpful to encourage better sleep.

I’m so passionate about encouraging people to build up their own home herbal apothecary that I’ve included lots of ‘recipes for the home apothecary’ in my new book. 

What are your favourite books on herbalism?

I absolutely love Matthew Wood’s “The Book of Herbal Wisdom”. I think I’ve read it from cover to cover more than a dozen times and every time I read it, I learn something new. Writing this answer has made me want to pick it up again!

I also love the old herbals and I often refer to Culpeper for example. There are loads of wonderful more modern herbal books too. I have far too many of them. If you’re confused as to which book to choose I recommend having a look at the Aeon Books catalogue for inspiration as they have a great selection and good descriptions to help you decide. 

You have a training in forestry and agriculture. How has this knowledge helped you as a herbalist?

It does seem an odd career move to go from large scale plant production to being a small scale herbal practitioner but looking back on it I can see how much my agricultural and forestry training has influenced me and helped me as a herbalist. I feel very fortunate in that I’ve been taught about soils and ecosystems so I find it easy to ‘read’ the landscape and predict where certain medicinal plants are likely to be found. I was also taught about hay making. The knowledge I gained from understanding how to dry and produce good quality hay, really influenced my understanding about how best to dry herbs. I realised early on that many of the commercially available dried herbs are not well dried and have lost much of their potency. I understood what had contributed to these problems and I was confident that I could produce vibrant well dried and potent herbs. I got my first dehydrator and started the process of learning how best to achieve that. Producing good quality vibrant herbs was one of the main drivers of me starting to be more self-sufficient in the herbs that I prescribed.

Before you go.

How important do you feel  it is for us to reconnect to our herbal heritage on a global level?


I think that this is incredibly important. Three quarters of people in the world rely on herbal medicine for their primary health care. For herbs to support these people in perpetuity we need to safeguard both traditional herbal knowledge and the habitats that support plants being gathered for medicine. Even in so called ‘developed countries’ there’s a great need to be more sustainable in our health choices. A culture of preventive medicine and home herbal apothecaries will help to keep people healthier and will take some pressure off our healthcare systems. Imagine if more families were able to turn to herbal medicine for some of the common health conditions that crop up. This would reduce pressure on GP’s and lessen the cost and environmental impact associated with our over reliance on allopathic medicines.

I want to make it clear that I’m not suggesting that we should completely replace the allopathic healthcare model though. Not at all! I’m very glad to live in a country where we have access to amazing high tech healthcare when we need it. Wouldn’t it be lovely though if more people felt empowered and able to stay healthier through their daily lifestyle and dietary choices and by knowing which herbs to take when they need support? Connecting with our herbal heritage could help us to keep episodes of ill health as just temporary ‘blips’ rather than them evolving into more serious and debilitating chronic diseases.

Herbal medicine is natural medicine and traditional medicine. When we connect with it and take care of it we are taking care of our precious planet.


Thank you.

You can find Lucy at

Seasonal Apple Puree with Ginger and Turmeric

Seasonal Apple Puree with Ginger and Turmeric


A symbol of love gratitude, generosity, harvest and abundance. 

They really are in abundance at the moment. It appears to be a mast year.

From roadside, to field and hanging over the garden walls they bulge with rosy fruit.

If crumbles aren’t your thing and you are all juiced out try our apple puree/sauce recipe. Combined with ginger and turmeric it makes a worthy immune supporter as we roll through Autumn into Winter.

Ginger and turmeric are both potent anti-inflammatories and warming thus promoting qi and blood flow that can become stagnant as the days cool down and your body has a tendency to dampness.



20 large apples

1 lemon

3cm of root ginger

2 fingers of fresh turmeric


Peel and slice the apples

Place in a pan with the juice of a quarter of a lemon

Heat up to a simmer and simmer until all the apple is soft.

Add the peeled piece of ginger and the turmeric.

Blend all together with the apple in a nutribullet until smooth whilst the apple is still hot.


Apple invites us to enjoy the fruits of the earth and be grateful for them.

Enjoy with yogurt, granola or off the spoon on an empty stomach.

When not eating apple. Try dyeing with their leaves.


Fill a pan with apple leaves

Bring to the boil and leave overnight to allow the colour to release.

The next day reheat, leaving the leaves in the dye pot. Add your cotton fabric and leave the fabric in the dye pot overnight. Reheat to reduce the dye water and strengthen the final colour of fabric.

The natural tannins in the leaves mean you don’t require a mordant.

Apple are not the only leaves you can naturally dye with. Others you can try are birch, walnut or alder leaves. 


"The goldenrod is yellow, The corn is turning brown, The trees in apple orchards With fruit are bending down."
- Helen Hunt Jackson.
The Spices of Life - Natural Dyeing with Turmeric

The Spices of Life - Natural Dyeing with Turmeric


Our passion for natural plant dyes was inspired by Ayurvastra, an ancient branch of Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old system of healthcare.

“Ayur” is Sanskrit for health and “vastra” clothing so Ayurvastra is loosely translated to “life cloth”

It uses herb-infused and herb-dyed organic fabrics as healing agents, especially for skin, joint and respiratory conditions.

Ayurvastra functions through the principle of touch: as the skin comes into contact with the herb-infused fabric the body develops increased metabolism and rids itself of toxins. Studies have proven the effectiveness of this*

Turmeric is a wonderful spice to use for creating life cloth at home as it is a spice we hopefully all have in our kitchen cupboard. Utilising its anti-inflammatory and immune boosting qualities to wrap around you at will.

Try it yourself using our recipe, bearing in mind it is not a very colourfast or lightfast dye. If you leave in the sunlight the colour will fade as it will after frequent washes.


Turmeric powder – 3 tablespoons for every 500g of fabric

Scoured Cotton fabric

A large pan full of water.



Fill a pan with water and warm to a simmer on the hob.

Add the turmeric and stir until it is well dispersed.

Wet your fabric. Because of its fugitive colour in sunlight we don’t recommend using mordant when dyeing with turmeric.

Add your fabric to the pan and make sure it is submerged. Move around with your hands to make sure every inch is covered and allow the pot to simmer for 2 hours and then cool stirring and moving the fabric every hour to make sure you get an even coverage. Add a splash of vinegar if you want to brighten the colour.

When you are happy with the colour rinse it in water and hang to dry inside ( not in sunlight)

You can cut out pieces of the cotton to make homemade bandages for cuts or sores, use the sheets to lie on during a massage or meditation or use the material to create eye masks. 

As a Naturopath I love to take a holistic approach to health. Why not combine the healing power of turmeric with its friend ginger.

Ginger has many uses in the home remedies department and can be used to help arthritis, diarrhea, flu, headache, heart and menstrual problems, diabetes, stomach upset and motion sickness.

Here are our top home uses for the spice ginger.

Muscle Strains - Apply warm ginger paste with turmeric to the affected area twice a day.

Sore throat - Boil some water and add a dash of cinnamon, a little piece of ginger, 1 tsp honey and drink.

For a persistent cough - Take a half teaspoonful of ginger powder, a pinch of clove with a pinch of cinnamon powder and honey in a cup of boiled water and drink it as tea.

Asthma - A teaspoon of fresh ginger juice mixed with a cup of fenugreek decoction and honey to taste acts as a excellent expectorant in the treatment of asthma.

Headaches - Dilute a paste of ginger powder, about 1/2 a teaspoon, with water and apply to you forehead.

Colds - Boil a teaspoonful of ginger powder in one quart of water and inhale the steam - helps alleviate colds.

Ginger Compress - This method stimulates blood and body fluid circulation, helps loosen and dissolve toxic matter eg. cysts, tumors. Place about a handful of coarsely grated ginger in a cloth and squeeze out the ginger juice into a pot containing 4 liters of hot water (do not boil the water). Dip a towel into the ginger water and wring it out. Apply very hot to the affected area.

Diabetes - Some doctors recommend some drinking ginger in water first thing in the morning to help regulate your glucose level.

Ginger Tea - Make with fresh ginger root. Grate a small piece of ginger, about the size of a nickel, into a mug. Add the juice of a half a lemon. Fill the mug with boiling water. Stir in a teaspoon of organic honey.

For relief of nausea - Ginger is generally taken in doses of 200 mg every 4 hours.

For relief of flatulence - Ginger is generally taken in doses of 250 to 500 mg 2 to 3 times a day.


X Primrose 

* In 2006, a trial by the Government Ayurveda College in Thiruvanathapuram in southern India found Ayurvastra cloth to be effective in treating 40 patients with allergies, rheumatism, hypertension, psoriasis and other skin ailments. Despite the history of this practice, Western medicine has not yet recognized the benefits of ayurvastra clothing and products.


Hapa Zome - Japanese printmaking
July 05, 2022

Hapa Zome - Japanese printmaking

With all the flowers around, Spring and Summer are a great time of year to indulge in some Hapa zome. Hapa what? You ask.

Hapa zome. The term meaning “leaf dye” is a Japanese printmaking technique invented by artist India Flint using pigments in leaves, flower to produce lovely detailed prints.

In Japan this technique is actually known as Tataki Zome but India’s name has taken off and most refer to it as Hapa Zome now.

It basically involves selecting a basket of interesting bright flowers, leaves or berries and using a hammer (a wooden mallet works best if you have one) to hammer this selection onto fabric. You can use cotton or linen and silk is particularly effective.


So the colours from the plant material last longer and bind better we recommend mordanting the fabric either using alum or milk (instructions below).

Wash your fabric in the washing machine and let it dry naturally, soak the fabric for 24 hours in milk, spin off the milk in the washing machine and let dry naturally, place the fabric back into the milk and repeat this process around three times. Then leave the dried fabric for 3 days before using for optimum effect.

Place your fabric on a hard surface and arrange your flowers, leaves and berries as you wish.

You can hammer directly onto the flowers themselves but I like to fold material over the top in order to get a mirror print.


Whilst the idea with this technique is to experiment which we always encourage. We have had good results with some of the following so you could start there: Rose Petals, Eucalyptus leaves, foxgloves, marigolds, geraniums, common catsear, dandelions, nettles.

Tag us @bedstrawandmadder with any of your creations.

The Colour of Cow Parsley

The Colour of Cow Parsley

There are so many wild plants, living close to our homes that make a natural dye. Often, they are right under our noses.

Cow parsley is one of these. A very pretty plant with a not so pretty name and often left alone because people don’t want to confuse it with Hemlock, the famous poison of the Victorians.

We love the beauty of cow parsley and once you feel comfortable identifying it, encourage you to experiment.

It is one of the first Apiaceae to bloom. This family is also known as umbellifers because of their umbrella like flowers. Perfect for fairies to hide from the rain.

Well perhaps not fairies, but it certainly provides a refuge for a large number of creatures. These range from marmalade hoverflies to orange tip butterflies.

Other plants you find in this family are parsley, carrot and celery to name a few of the astonishing 3000 species.

It grows well in gardens, roadways, lanes and you will be sure to see it blooming from May to June.


How to Identify:

The main differences between hemlock and cow parley are:

Hemlock is a little darker in colour

Hemlock leaves are more feathery and finer.

Hemlock has a sheen to its leaves rather than the matt of cow parsley.

Hemlock has blotchy purple stems but when young can be greener.

Hemlock has no hairs on the stem where cow parsley has a hairy stem.

Cow parsley leaves smell of parsley when crushed. Hemlock smells of ammonia when crushed.



Pick double the weight of flowers and stems to fabric.

Chop them up roughly with scissors and place in a pan.

Cover the plant with enough water to cover and bring to the boil.

Simmer for an hour then turn off heat and allow the plant to steep for a few hours or until desired colour achieved.

Strain your flowers and add your mordanted fabric.

Cow Parsley creates fresh, subtle lemon and lime shades.


Natural Dyeing with Hawthorn

Natural Dyeing with Hawthorn


As you walk along country lanes and park hedgerows you will be greeted by the hawthorn blossom. It has finally sprung and it beckons for us to benefit from its feminine healing powers.

Hawthorn has its strongest affinity with the heart. Opening us to giving and receiving Love. It encourages self-love and self-acceptance strengthening our inner courage. In fact the word courage comes from the latin for "cor" which means "heart" suggesting that the vulnerability that comes with opening our heart is what it means to be courageous. We love to wear powerful herbs against our skin.

Your skin is the largest organ of your body, its thin dermal layers absorbing the physical and energetic qualities of the plants, our allies, that we have been connected to for generations.

We have been experimenting with it as a plant dye. Using the flowers and leaves combined it creates a beautiful coral pink. 

If you would like to try this at home here are some instructions: Fill a saucepan full with flowers and leaves. Cover with water at least 2cm above the top of the hawthorn. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour then leave in to cool .

Use a pan large enough to allow the fabric some room if you want an even colour.

Place your pan on the hob and bring to the boil before simmering gently for 1 hour.

Keep checking to see how the dye colour is looking and when you are happy strain out the skins and place your material in the dye bath.


Keep on a gentle heat and move fabric around freely. For deeper colours leave the fabric to sit in the dye overnight and cool. 

When doing natural dyeing you need to prepare the fabrics. You can do this with a metallic based mordant (instructions here) or alternatively a protein rich mordant like Soya, Cow or Goats milk. 

For this fabric we mordanted with goats milk and water in a 1:1 ratio


This involved soaking the silk (you can use cotton or linen too) in goats milk, then putting on a spin cycle to wring out excess milk without leaving streaks before placing on the line to dry. Repeat this process without rinsing 3 times minimum. Once dry leave another 24 hours - 1 week to help the milk adhere.

For this mottled effect I crunched it up the fabric as I moved it about in the dye bath. 

I also took it out after an initial soak, dried it then placed it back in the dye bath. 

With Love + Knickers... 




How to Prepare your fabric for Natural Dyeing
January 19, 2022

How to Prepare your fabric for Natural Dyeing

Want to get excited with natural dyeing? 

We love natural dyes and natural dyeing. It's brilliant. Once you get started, we can assure you it’s very addictive.

Let's get inspired! Try some natural dyeing in your own home, its all about experimenting. 

Sign up to our newsletter for exciting natural craft and dye projects.

Most natural dyes require a fixative, which dyers call a mordant. These help the colours bind to the fabric. Washing, Scouring and Mordanting before the dyeing process gives the most reliable and consistent results.

So here is our our guide to preparing your fabrics in 3 easy steps.


1. Washing

To remove any grease from your fabric put it on a 40-degree wash with an ecological soap like ecover.

2. Scouring

Place fabric straight from the wash into a pot with enough water for fabric to move around easily. Add some ecological soap (the same amount you would use in the washing machine). Bring the water to a boil if using plant-based fabrics or to a simmer if using protein based like wool then keep it at this temperature for an hour before turning off the heat and leaving to cool. Then rinse in cool water.

3. Mordanting

Whilst there are plant based mordants (we will discuss in a later blog) for consistency and simplicity now we recommend a mineral based mordant called Alum. Alum (potassium aluminum sulphate) is considered nontoxic light metal mordant and you can use it with protein and plant fibres. The effect of alum on fibres is much improved by using an  “assist” to help the fibres absorb it completely. For plant fibres use soda ash to assist and for protein fibres use cream of tartar.

If you want any information about ingredients mentioned above we love to hear from you so GET IN TOUCH at


Weigh the fibre after it has been washed, scoured and dried. Use 8% of the weight of the fibre in alum and 7% of the weight of the fabric in cream of tartar or soda ash.

Place the fibre in a pot and allow it to soak for at least 1 hour. 

Fill a pot with water that allows the fabric to move around freely and be covered.

Dissolve the measured-out cream of tartar and stir with a long wooden spoon. Dissolve the measured-out alum and stir with a long wooden spoon.

Add the pre wetted fabric and bring the solution to a simmer, cover with lid and simmer for one hour. Stir occasionally to move the fabric and make sure it is being absorbed evenly.

Turn off the heat and allow fibres to cool in pot overnight.

Wring out excess liquid and rinse in cool water. Your fabric is now ready to start natural dyeing with! Use the damp fabric to add to your dye bathe.

Have fun, slow down and enjoy the process. When you are using natural dyes you will always create something beautiful. Good Luck!

 Prim x Ness