Dyeing with Herbs
Preparation Time
1 day
Cooking Time
4 hours


2 large stainless steel saucepans

3 or 4 buckets (for soaking, rinsing) or access to large sinks

Rubber gloves

Wooden rod for stirring

Wooden rod to dry wool hanks on / over

Large Colander

A mordant (Alum – Aluminium potassium sulphate; Tin – Stannous chloride; Chrome – Potassium dichromate; Iron – ferrous sulphate) see more

Herbs Colours

Weigh wool (wool requires to be scoured before use) to be dyed. (Natural Fabric can also be used it needs to be in a raw state)

Make wool into smallish hanks much easier to handle. Tie the hanks in several places loosely. The dye needs to access all sides of the wool but you don’t want it to knot.

Wool needs to be scoured to remove oil. This is done by soaking the hanks for an hour in water containing some liquid detergent or soft soap and ammonia. The water should be about 50c.

Drain the water and squeeze wool gently to get as much water out as possible.

Soak in cooler water containing detergent or soft soap for a further hour. If the wool is still oily soak overnight and rinse it several times.

When the wool is scoured enough let the wool dry. You can wring out in a pillowcase in the dryer for a short time before putting over wooden rods to dry naturally and slowly.

Collect at least twice the weight or more of the fresh herb needed. (Dried can be used but fresh is best)

Chop herb, bruise stems and leave to soak overnight. If you use tap water add a touch of vinegar.


25g mordant and a small amount of cream of tartar will make enough to dye 100g of fabric /wool

Dissolve the required amount of mordant in hot water and stir into a large saucepan of water deep enough to cover the wool to be dyed.

Heat until warm then gently tip in the soaking wet wool. Slowly bring the water to simmering point. It should take about an hour. Hold on simmer for another hour.

The wool will not shrink or felt do not stir it around or poke at it. Take the saucepan off and leave to cool.

Now bring the herbs and the water they have been soaking in to the boil in a large saucepan. Reduce to a simmer until the water takes on a darker colour that the one you wish the dyed fabric to be. This will take at least another two hours. Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave to cool. Strain to remove hard herb.

Lift the wool from the mordant with a wooden rod and slide into the coloured water. Put the saucepan back on the stove and bring it back to the boil. It will take about an hour.

Let the water cool till the wool can be handled with rubber gloves. Lift the hanks from the water and gently squeeze excess dye.

Rinse hanks in a bucket of warm water and give a final rinse in a bucket of cold water. Do not be tempted to rinse under running water.

Squeeze hanks and blot to remove excess water and hang on wooden rods to dry completely.