au naturel colour…

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25/06/2011 by Sarah Ritchie

Naturally dyed yarn

Naturally-dyed yarn from East Village Farm, Connecticut, USA (

In our modern day and age it is tempting to think that all colours are borne out of a tube, or chemistry lab or magic themselves off a paint company’s swatch sheet. It could be surprising, to some, that nature itself (plants, insects and minerals) is the original source of colour dyes, and the original base for early paint pigments!

Did you know that cochineal—the source of brilliant reds for hundreds of years before the development of synthetic dyes—is made from bugs? And the blue paint that the Celts/Picts used to paint their bodies (remember “Braveheart”?) was “woad” made from a plant?

Here is an in-no-way-exhaustive list of nautral dyes that can be made from materials we can still source today.

Alkanet Root (Alkanna Tinctoria)
: Bluish grey to soft burgundy
Annato Seed (Bixa Orellana)
: Orange shade
Brazilwood Dust (Caesalpania Echinata): Reds
Cochineal bug (Dactylopius Coccus)
: Dark burgundy to bright red to soft lilac and pink
Cutch Extract (Acacia Catechu)
: Brown tones if used by itself
Indigo Natural (Indigo Tinctotia)
: Blue
Indigo Solution Natural (Saxony blue): 
Bright blue
Loqwood Concentrate (Hematoxylon Campechianum)
: Magentas and browns to purples and pinks
Madderroot (Rubia Tinctorum)
: Red to red-brown and oranges
Osage Orange Dust (Maclura Pomifer): Bright yellow and gold
Red Sandalwood (Pterocarpus)
: Browns


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Finalist, Estuary Art Awards 2011
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