Protein fibers (silk, wool) must be undergo a process of scouring (washing) and mordanting, priming the fibers for optimal dye absorption and vibrancy, before beginning the dye process. Cellulose fibers (linen, cotton, rayon, bamboo) have an additional step where the fibers have to be pre-mordanted to ensure for color vibrancy. The process of scouring, washing, designing and dyeing fibers can last up to 5 days. Pieces with multiple colors could add an additional 48 hours.
Indigo refers both to the blue pigment used as a dye and to indigo plants of the genus Indigofera. Indigo dye has been used for thousands of years by civilizations all over the world to dye fabric blue. It has been the most famous and most widely used natural dye throughout history and is still extremely popular today as evidenced by the familiar colour of blue jeans. We use concentrated Indigo crystals that are extracted from the Indigo plant.
Madder roots are one of the more ancient dyes, and have been used as a dye for over 5,000 years. Madder contains alizarin, one of the most valuable red dye pigments ever known. Traces of madder in linen were found Tutankhamen’s tomb (1350 BC), and in wool discovered in Norse burial grounds.
A member of the pea family, logwood trees grow to a height of 40ft and are ready to harvest after 10 years.The heartwood of the logwood tree offers deep rich purples. Valued as dyestuff since the 16th century, it was one of the most prized dyes introduced into Europe following the discovery of America.
Originating in Central America, the earliest use of marigolds was by the Aztec people who attributed magical, religious and medicinal properties to marigolds. The Spaniards took the plant to Spain, where the seeds were traded throughout Europe. The flowers became popular in the churches in Spain and were frequently referred to as "Mary's Gold." The name evolved to marigold. Dye shades from the flower range from yellow and gold to orange and tan.
One of the most important insect dyes in the world, Cochineal, is harvested from female insects of the Dactylopius species, which live on prickly pear cacti. Native to South and Central America, Cochineal has been used for thousands of years and produces beautiful, lightfast and permanent scarlets, pinks and reds. In the 1600s Cochineal became an expensive commodity and was second only to silver as the most valuable import from Mexico into Europe.