Module II: Colour

sources of natural pigment & how to use them

every hue under the sun…

Keep this as a secret matter because the purple has an extremely beautiful lustre. Take scum of woad from the dyer, and a sufficient portion of foreign alkanet of about the same weight as the scum — the scum is very light — and triturate it in the mortar. Thus dissolve the alkanet by grinding in the scum and it will give off its essence. Then take the brilliant colour prepared by the dyer — if from kermes it is better, or else from krimnos — heat, and put this liquor into half of the scum in the mortar. Then put the wool in and colour it unmordanted and you will find it beyond all description.”

~ recipe 101 from The Papyrus Graecus Holmiensis (also known as the Stockholm Papyrus), Greece, approx. 300 AD


what you’ll learn


In this Module, you will learn about the large range of natural substances that can be used for reliable natural dyeing, including plant, lichen, algae, fungi, insect, and mineral pigments. Using the samples mordanted in Module I, we will experiment with both historic and contemporary dye sources and methods to create a large range of beautiful colours on cloth.

  • natural dye sources and pigment categories

    • learn about classic dyes from around the world, and throughout history

    • gain an understanding of the different categories of pigments found in Nature, and which natural dye sources contain which pigment compound(s)

    • learn to understand and effectively manage the unique process for creating blue dyes

    • gain an understanding of fastness, and of industry standards in use to measure it for exposure to light, washing, and perspiration

  • dye a rainbow, using differently mordanted fibres from Module I, and through the further introduction of modifiers and assists

    • gain control over variables in the dye process that can influence dye results, expanding the tools/techniques you can use to shift hues

    • develop insights and tools, including proper records, to help you troubleshoot when results don’t go to plan

    • learn to create a range of hues from several different classic dyes from antiquity that are still easily available and in use today, with a focus on safety and ecological protection

    • identify, harvest, and prepare several dye baths from locally available dye plants (and, possibly other natural sources available to you locally), with a focus on safety and ecological protection

    • re-discover and celebrate truly regional colour by identifying and experimenting with at least one historic dye source from your specific region

    • re-create one ancient dye recipe (will be provided by the instructor, and will use readily available ingredients)

    • learn to create, use, and troubleshoot a properly balanced, organic dye vat, using indigo or woad (blue pigment sources)

    • learn hot and cold dye methods

    • gain command of over-dyeing, to further expand your colour palette and to achieve colours, such as green, that are difficult to achieve from any one natural pigment source

    • learn how to properly care for naturally dyed fibres

It is perfectly fine to finish after Module II. Modules III and IV require the student to already have a solid grasp of all of the fundamentals of proper fabric preparation and natural dyeing which are covered in Modules I and II, but can be taken separately from them.

what you’ll receive

Each module begins with downloadable instructions that cover the following.

  • a list of materials and equipment you will need to acquire in advance of the Module

  • calendar of the topics and assignment for each week

  • links to relevant background reading (course material prepared by the instructor, as well as links to recommended online resources)

  • links to instructional videos (generally one per week) on each week’s topic

  • links to the online forum for weekly discussions of the results of that week’s assignment

    • each student has the opportunity for a weekly, up to one hour, 1:1 session with the instructor via Skype or WhatsApp, for dedicated feedback and discussion on the results of that week’s assignment - i.e. not for general discussion (optional, not mandatory)

    • 2 days per week are set aside by the instructor for these sessions to accommodate various time zones, students’ schedules, etc.