Also dyeing with mushrooms, lichen, and insects
Fibers that can be dyed
from MDC member Quaniliaz
- Cotton and other plant fibers
- Some synthetic fibers (i.e. acrylic)
- Human hair and skin
*wool and silk are good places to start as they take dye especially wellDyestuffexamples
(Leaves, stems, flowers, roots, bark, or fruit)
Cochineal – insects found living on prickly pear cactus in Central and South America
“Mordants are simply metallic or mineral salts which, when added to the dye bath, enhance, intensify, or change the color of the dye bath and make the resulting shade more fast to light and washing.” (Casselman, Craft of the Dyer, 22) Not all dyestuffs require the use of mordants.
A good, relatively non-toxic, mordant to use is alum, which is available in the spice section of the grocery store.
Other commonly available mordants: baking soda, vinegar, cream of tartar (used as an additive, not alone), rhubarb leaves, and urine. Other more toxic mordants include tin, copper, iron, and chrome.Color[see corresponding reference for further details]
*No mordant necessary
fugitive = will fadeBlue
copper pennies 
black walnut hulls*
beets  (fugitive)*
chamomile flowers and leaves
a.Wind yarn into skein, tie in several places
b.Gently wash in warm soapy water, rinse in water of same temperature
c.Hang to dry, or use immediately2.Pre-Mordant
(use utensils that will only be used for dyeing from this point on, not for food)
a.Thoroughly wet all fibers to be mordanted. A soak overnight is best.
b.Dissolve mordant (Alum and Cream of Tartar (assistant)) in boiling water – for 1 lb wool, use 2 Tbsp Alum, 4 tsp Cream of Tartar
c.Add dissolved mordant to several gallons of water in pot. If wool is wet, be sure to use the same temperature water.
d.Gradually raise temp to a simmer over the course of an hour; maintain simmer for 30-45 minutes
e.Gently stir yarn from time to time
f.Cool in pot, overnight
g.Rinse, or not
h.Hang to dry, or use immediately3.Dyeing
a.Gather enough dyestuff (general rule: 1 oz dyestuff for 1 oz wool)
b.Boil dyestuff in a pot of water until dye is extracted (1/2 – 3 hrs)
d.Add additional water to dye bath, water should be the same temp as yarn
e.Gradually raise temp to a slow simmer (must not boil now that fiber has entered the pot) over the course of an hr; maintain simmer for ½-3 hrs
f.Gently stir yarn from time to time
g.Add water if necessary (take yarn out before adding hot water); yarn should not be forced against bottom of pot
h.Cool in pot, overnight
i.Rinse and wash with shampoo
j.Hang to dryResources
1.Bessette, Arleen Rainis, and Alan E Bessette. The Rainbow Beneath My Feet: A Mushroom Dyer's Field Guide. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 2001.
2.Buchanan, Rita. A Dyer's Garden: From Plant to Pot Growing Dyes for Natural Fibers. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1995.
3.Casselman, Karen Diadick. Lichen Dyes: The New Sourcebook. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2001.
4.Casselman, Karen Leigh. Craft of the Dyer: Colour from Plants and Lichens. New York: Dover Publications, 1993.
5.Dean, Jenny. Wild Color. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1999.
6.Grae, Ida. Nature’s Colors: Dyes from Plants. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1974.
7.Sugar, Marie. The Complete Natural Dyeing Guide. Leymoyne, PA: Rug Hooking Magazine, 2002.