All Posts

  • Iron Water

    If you want consistent, repeatable colors when modifying your natural dyeing with iron, iron water is not the thing to use. Move along and search online for a recipe to make an iron acetate mordant for anything that requires measurable results. However, if you want to introduce a little bit of chaos, surprise, and pure… Read more

  • The Colours of Medieval Ireland II – Tree based colours

    The Colours of Medieval Ireland II – Tree based colours

    There are no end of ways to make colour happen on cloth and wool, the trick is rather to make them stay there. The earliest forms of fixing colours come from what Bríd Mahon (Traditional Dyestuffs in Ireland from Gold Under the Furze) calls “crude native alum [….] from wood ash, human urine, sheep manure,… Read more

  • More indigo, Lincoln green and how not to treat wool

    More indigo, Lincoln green and how not to treat wool

    In December Eiscir Airgead in the Barony of Eplaheimr hosted a day of mead making, candle dipping and, as is becoming traditional, dyeing. On this occasion I decided to go for another indigo bath since we enjoyed our first attempt at Coronet very greatly, but I wanted to see what improvements we could make. I… Read more

  • Trying to find the colours of medieval Ireland – old sources.

    Trying to find the colours of medieval Ireland – old sources.

    For absolutely not the first or last time I have been struggling with translation. The more it happens the more I ditch my ideas that I will never, ever try to get my brain around Old Irish and idly dream about maybe going back to college some day just to try to get a better… Read more

  • A little end of year note

    ‘Tis the season for roundups and look backs, so here I am. I’ve personally had an excellent year in SCA terms in 2023 and I think it’s safe to say that this little dyeing community is a great part of that. It is a wonderful thing to run a workshop and have people enthusiastically participate, and to… Read more

  • Dyeing with Purple Gromwell

    Dyeing with Purple Gromwell

    Purple gromwell (aka red stoneroot and red gromwell) is related to Borage and forget-me-not and has been used both medicinally and for dyeing for literally thousands of years, especially if you consult East Asian texts. In different cultural traditions, it was variously believed to have, when ingested, properties ranging from anti-viral to contraceptive properties to… Read more

  • Elizabethan Colour charts

    Having mentioned earlier I was idly poking around it on my lunchbreak got absolutely sidetracked by some of the names of the colours documented on the site, not least some lists compiled by Penny Ladnier which are absolutely awesome. I love me a good quirky name, (ask me how I got interested in mushrooms)… Read more

  • The Whole Art of Dying in two parts – A first impression

    The use of dying not dyeing is not mine, just to be clear! I’ve very recently discovered this book and am currently completely fascinated by it, even though it was printed out of my period of interest, in 1705 in London. The full title text includes:“The whole art of dying : in two parts, the… Read more

  • My first experiments in natural dyeing

    My first experiments in natural dyeing

    I have some experience with dyeing clothing from when I worked in a theatrical costume shop for a few years. These costumes were dyed in an old washing machine drum that we used exclusively for fabric dyeing, and the dyes we used were packaged Rit, Dylon, or other purchased powders and liquids in bright vibrant,… Read more

  • How To: gather basic equipment

    How To: gather basic equipment

    Going to be honest with you, this is just a list of things I’ve found useful and is in no way complete. I’ve been doing this for a little while now and a lot of the stuff I’ve picked up as donations or second hand. I got very lucky and picked up chemistry flasks in… Read more

  • How To:  Scour Animal/protein fibres.

    How To: Scour Animal/protein fibres.

    Scouring is the term used in the dyeing world for cleaning – but not in the standard ‘bung it in the washing machine’ type of cleaning. When you consider how pernickity natural and historic dyes can be it makes sense that you want to remove as many reasons for your dyeing to go wrong as… Read more

  • Marigold – a colour that lives up to it’s name.

    Marigold – a colour that lives up to it’s name.

    At a lovely August weekend in Clara, Orlaith managed to demystify natural dyeing for me to a large extent. I got really excited! This was something new that I hadn’t tried yet, and the thought of dyeing my own yarn and then making it into something I can use, or can gift to someone, has… Read more

  • Tannins as a mordant

    Tannins as a mordant

    Tannins have been used for centuries both colour and help fix other colurs to fabric and yarn. By themselves they colour these anything from a light beige to brown. They are found naturally occurring in various plant tissues, such as barks, leaves, and fruits, especially woody cones. They are particularly good as a mordant for… Read more

  • The Great Madder Experiment

    The Great Madder Experiment

    As part of an event I ran called Féile na nÚll this year there was a workshop, a great madder experiment if you will, where people who wanted to participate brought tap water from different areas. We messed about a bit with the PH of an additional sample of tap water and threw in a… Read more

  • The Insulae Draconis colours workshop

    The Insulae Draconis colours workshop

    At the recent Principality Coronet Tournament (Ilchomórtas Coróineád Insulae Draconis in my Barony of Eplaheimr, I wanted to do a workshop that included a lot of dyeing info in a (hopefully) accessible way, so I decided to show how to do a standard dyebath (I chose weld) , a dye Vat (Indigo) and how using… Read more

  • Brazilwood


    If anyone ever tells you Pink is not a period colour – they lie. Pink is produced in a number of ways, not least of which is just allowing a red dyebath to exhaust into steadily more pale pink tones. This is ordinary wool, linen and muslin cloth all dyed with brazilwood. I used tap… Read more

  • Historical dyeing recipe sources

    The Leyden Papyrus and The Stockholm Papyrus These are third-century Egyptian documents, probably written by the same scribe, with recipes for various thing, of which some are dyeing or related recipes. “The Leyden Papyrus X ” is the one that concerns itself particularly with dyes and metals and is detailed in Journal of Chemical Education, vol.… Read more

  • What usually goes to a workshop?

    What usually goes to a workshop?

    This is just a brief introduction to the dyestuffs that generally tend to come along with me to workshops, so if anyone sees something in here they are *DYING* to try, do let me know? This is a photo of a sample of things in my as yet unpainted dyestuff box. I have a couple… Read more

  • Period dyeing, a general intro

    Period dyeing, a general intro

    Natural dyes have lots of issues modern dyes don’t, but they are much more fun in my opinion. You just have to approach the whole thing the way a person in period might have – what am I dyeing, how much colour do I care about, does it need to be consistent, do I need… Read more

  • So, what is ‘Mordanting’?

    So, what is ‘Mordanting’?

    Mordanting is a preparation process used in textile dyeing to improve the uptake and colorfastness of dyes in fibres. The term “mordant” comes from the Latin word “mordere,” which means “to bite.”, so you get me afflicting your mind’s eye with the idea of little chemical agents biting down all eager to get slathered in… Read more