NATURAL DYE RECIPES

We have tested and written recipes for the home-dyer using our high-quality dyes.

For first-time dyers we recommend using one of our pigments and dye assists, which perfectly align with the following tips and tricks.

Dyeing with Myrobalan

 

Download a printable pdf version of this recipe.

Myrobalan is used as both a dye or a mordant for plant-based fibers, like cotton and linen.

In beginning any new project, the proper amount of Myrobalan Powder needs to be calculated.

Tip: Mordanting

Before dyeing with Myrobalan, we recommend mordanting your fibers with alum for protein-based fibers like wool and silk. For plant-based fabrics, like cotton and linen, you can mordant with myrobalan, then alum.

1. Measure the weight of fabric, WOF. We recommend using 20-30% WOF for buttery yellows. 

For example, if you are dying 500 grams (1 pound) worth of fiber, you would need 100-150 grams of powder.  

If we are calculating 20% of Myrobalan powder this would be our formula: 

Weight of Fiber x 0.2 = Amount of Myrobalan powder needed (by weight)

2. To prepare your dye bath, fill a pot with warm water, enough to allow your fiber to float freely. Add the pre-measured powder and stir well until it's completely liquid.  

3. You are now ready to begin dyeing! We recommend getting your mordanted fabrics wet and ringing them out until they are damp, this helps evenly distribute the dye.

Tip: Modifiers

This is where you can add modifiers, or dye assists, to manipulate color. Remember, modifiers cannot be removed from the dye bath, if you want to experiment with swatches or dye different pieces of fabric, separate your dye bath and add modifiers accordingly. Adding 2-4% WOF iron to the dye bath to produce grey and earthy greens. Pairing both myrobalan and osage orange creates a brighter but less colorfast yellow than just using myrobalan alone.

4. Once the fabric is in, slowly begin heating your water to about 180 degrees F, above a simmer but below a boil with slight steam, for about an hour.

5. The final step is to rinse the dyed fabrics and let them dry overnight. Wash using a pH-neutral liquid detergent, like Dr. Bronner’s.

Tip: Modifiers

Myrobalan is a good foundation for over-dyeing with Indigo, producing a tinted teal.

Dyeing with Osage Orange

 

Download a printable pdf version of this recipe.

Extract Osage Orange Chips into a dye bath:

Before dyeing with osage, we recommend mordanting your plant-based fibers (cotton or linen), with a mordant and tannin, like myrobalan and alum.

All dyestuff must first be processed to extract pigment. In beginning any new project, the proper amount of Osage Orange Chips needs to be calculated.

  1. Measure the weight of fabric, WOF. We recommend using 40% WOF, weight of dry materials.

For example, if you are dying 500 grams (1 pound) worth of fiber, you would need 200 grams of osage.

Weight of Fiber x 0.4 = weight of dry materials

2. Add about 1 quart of water into a pot and add the pre-measured amount of osage orange chips for your specific project.

3. Bring the water to about 175 degrees F, above a simmer but below a boil with slight steam, for about 30 minutes to an hour.  

4. Strain the osage from the liquid, saving the liquid. This liquid is your extract. You are now ready to begin dyeing and prepping your dye bath!

Dyeing with Osage Orange:

5. To prep your dye bath, fill a pot with enough water to fit your fiber.

6. Add the correct amount of dye, extracted liquid, and stir it well.

7. You are now ready to begin dyeing! Get your mordanted fabrics wet and ring them out until they are damp, this helps evenly distribute the dye.  

Tip: Modifiers

Add 1-5% WOF of alum to the dye bath for brightened canary yellows or myrobalan for lightfast yellows. 1-3% WOF of iron added to the dye bath will produce earthy olive green. Remember, you can’t go back. If you are dyeing several items in one dye bath, you can separate the liquid into different pots, and add modifiers where needed.

8. Place your fabric into the dye pot. Once the fabric is in, slowly begin heating your water to a simmer, about 90 degrees F. Ensure the dye is able to reach every crease or wrinkle within the fabric by gently moving it around. Leave the project in the dye bath for about 45 minute to an hour.  

9. Rinse the dyed fabrics a few times and wash using a pH-neutral liquid detergent, like Dr. Bronner’s.

10. Dry your textile away from direct sunlight to avoid the dye fading unevenly.

Tip: Modifiers

Pair with our natural indigo, by over or under-dying. Over-dyeing means dipping your dyed fabric into an indigo vat, and under-dyeing refers to dyeing your fabric with indigo before dyeing it with osage orange. Experiment to produce an array of bright leafy and emerald greens.

Dyeing with Madder Root Paste

Madder Root Red 

 

This recipe was shared to us from Madeleine McGarrity, Artisan and Founder of Cold and Deadly Studio. View or download a printable recipe.

 

1. Prepping your Fabric

We recommend using soft water throughout this process. Soft water includes rainwater, distilled water, and some tap water. Many cities actually have excellent tap water for dyeing!

SCOUR your fabric.

Fibers need to be thoroughly scoured to assure good, even uptake of dye. Souring is not done to remove dirt, but to strip the fibers of natural oils and waxes. Even clean-looking textiles need to be scoured. We recommend washing with a neutral detergent.

TANNIN and MORDANT your fabric.

Dyes rich in tannin bond particularly well with cellulose-based fibers, like cotton and linen, allowing for saturated and long-lasting colors. Pre-mordanting assures strong, even tone, for a better control of your results! Its also more sustainable, as mordants are the hardest ingrienents in the whole process to dispose of responsibly and the most environmentally costly. Adding mordants now, instead of directly into your dyebath, means you can use less.

 

2. Tanning

  • Fill a large container of hot water (150 degrees F), with plenty of water. Tannin with 10% WOF Myrobalan for a yellow/beige hue or gallo nut as a clear tannin. Rinse gently.

Tip! You can use the same container and solution in several rounds to achieve this for a bigger amount of textile—just strengthen the tannin solution again each time. There is no need to heat constantly, just allow the liquid to cool with the textile in it, stirring intermittently.

 

3. Pre-Mordanting

  • Measure out 12% WOF of alum and 2% WOF soda ash.
  • Dissolve both separately small amounts of boiling water, then combine in large container (will BUBBLE also). Add warm-hot water at about 140F. Allow textile to soak—no need to heat—for several hours or overnight. Stir intermittently. Rinse well, then let the textile air dry (or “cure”).

Tip! For the deepest reds, repeat mordanting again—without tannining again—and allow to cure for several days.

 

4. Extract your Madder Root Powder

  • Measure out madder root powder at 150-200% WOF.
  • Fill the pot you intend to use for dying about half way full and add your measured amount of madder root powder needed for your dye project. Allow to soak for at least one hour—Heat mixture to 180F slowly over the course of 1 - 2 hours. DO NOT leave overnight or long enough to ferment!
  • Turn off the heat and it allow to cool.

 

5. Create Dye Bath

  • Fill a pot with cool water. There is no need to filter anything out.
  • Remove a generous cup of the dye liquid. Add chalk (calcium carbonate) and your selected tannin extract to this and mix well. These quantities of chalk and tannin are mostly dependent on the amount of madder used, but are also influenced by the size of the bath itself.

Tip! While adding too much tannin will affect the tonality of the red, but not the depth, you can absolutely add too much calcium carbonate, so tread lightly.

Here are three size measurements for reference:

for 15-30 g madder in a 1 gal pot:

1/4tsp calc carb

1/4tsp tannin

 

for 150-200g madder in a 5 gal pot:

1tsp calc carb

2tsp tannin

 

for 1lb of madder in a 20-25gal pot:

1.5-2tsp calc carb

3-4 tsp tannin

 

For example, if you dyed a t-shirt that weighed 100g and used 150 WOF of madder powder, you used 150g of madder powder to prepare your extract. We recommend creating your dyebath in a 5 gallon pot or bucket and adding 1 tsp of chalk and 2 tsp of your chosen tannin.  

 

6. Time to Dye!

  •  Wet your dry, mordanted fiber in a bath of clean, room temperature water to wet in preparation for dyeing. Never add dry textile to a dyebath.
  • Add your fiber and soak. Squeeze out your fiber and add to dye pot—the temperature of the bath should be room temperature.
  • Wearing gloves, work under the surface of the water for a minute or two. Leave and allow to sit for at least an hour. Look at the fiber: it should be a light yellow/orange to orange/red tone. This is an indication that the process is going well.
  • Start to Heat your madder bath. From room-temperature, slowly raise to a simmer (about 180F) over the course of at least an hour. Make sure to keep the temperature steady and below a simmer. Do not allow the temperature to drop once you begin to raise it. Stir gently and not very often. Once 175F - 180F is reached hold for 2-3 hours.
  • Monitor the fiber carefully: the timing is not always the same. You will not have deep red on dry fiber until the wet fiber looks red/black in the pot. Some people describe this as “black cherry red” but the desired look is closer to what a deep, rich navy would be if it were red, rather than blue. Then it’s done.
  • Allow to cool in the pot—overnight is fine.

NOTE: It is tempting to say ‘good enough’ when you see a bright red in the pot, but once finished and dry it will be significantly lighter. It is best to wait!

 

7. Finish your textile.

  • Rinse cooled textile well in warm water, then transfer to a second bath of warm water with some neutral detergent.
  • Without rinsing, transfer to a pot the same size as your dye pot, full of warm water.
  • Add 1 cup wheat bran per gallon and boil for at least an hour. This stage removes excess dye and brightens your red tone.
  • Rinse well in warm-hot water (do not shock your textile by going hot-to-cold or cold-to-hot) and hang to dry.

 

Madder Root Pink

 

This recipe was shared to us from Madeleine McGarrity, Artisan and Founder of Cold and Deadly Studio. View or download a printable version fo this recipe.

1. Prepping your Fabric

We recommend using soft water throughout this process. Soft water includes rainwater, distilled water, and some tap water. Many cities actually have excellent tap water for dyeing!

SCOUR your fabric.

Fibers need to be thoroughly scoured to assure good, even uptake of dye. Souring is not done to remove dirt, but to strip the fibers of natural oils and waxes. Even clean-looking textiles need to be scoured. We recommend washing with a neutral detergent.

TANNIN and MORDANT your fabric.

Dyes rich in tannin bond particularly well with cellulose-based fibers, like cotton and linen, allowing for saturated and long-lasting colors. Pre-mordanting assures strong, even tone, for a better control of your results! Its also more sustainable, as mordants are the hardest ingrienents in the whole process to dispose of responsibly and the most environmentally costly. Adding mordants now, instead of directly into your dyebath, means you can use less.

 

2. Tanning -  

  • Fill a large container of hot water (150 degrees F), with plenty of water. Tannin with 10% WOF. Myrobalan can be used for a tannin with a yellow/beige hue or gallo nut for a clear tannin. Rinse gently.

Tip! You can use the same container and solution in several rounds to achieve this for a bigger amount of textile—just strengthen the tannin solution again each time. There is no need to heat constantly, just allow the liquid to cool with the textile in it, stirring intermittently.

 

3. Pre-Mordanting-  

  • Measure out 12% WOF of alum
  • Dissolve the alum in boiling water, then combine in large container. Add warm-hot water at about 140F. Allow the textile to soak—no need to heat—overnight. Stir intermittently. Rinse well, then let the textile air dry (or “cure”) for 4-7 days for bestt results. (You may repeat this step, if desired.)

 

4. Extract your Madder Root Powder

  • Measure out madder root powder at 50% WOF for a pale medium pink
  • Fill the pot you intend to use for dying about half way full and add your measured amount of madder root powder needed for your dye project. Allow to soak for at least one hour—Heat mixture to 180F slowly over the course of 1 - 2 hours. DO NOT leave overnight or long enough to ferment!
  • Turn off the heat and it allow to cool.

 

5. Create Dye Bath

  • Fill a pot with cool water. There is no need to filter anything out.
  • Remove a generous cup of the dye liquid. Add chalk (calcium carbonate) and your selected tannin extract to this and mix well. These quantities of chalk and tannin are mostly dependent on the amount of madder used, but are also influenced by the size of the bath itself.

Tip! While adding too much tannin will affect the tonality of the red, but not the depth, you can absolutely add too much calcium carbonate, so tread lightly.

 

Here are three size measurements for reference:

 

for 15-30 g madder in a 1 gal pot:

⅛ tsp calc carb

⅛ tsp tannin

 

for 150-200g madder in a 5 gal pot:

½ tsp calc carb

1 tsp tannin

 

for 1lb of madder in a 20-25gal pot:

¾ -1 tsp calc carb

1.5 -2 tsp tannin

 

For example, if you dyed a t-shirt that weighed 100g and used 150 WOF of madder powder, you used 150g of madder powder to prepare your extract. We recommend creating your dyebath in a 5 gallon pot or bucket and adding 0.5 tsp of chalk and 1 tsp of your chosen tannin.  



Time to Dye!

  • Wet your dry, mordanted fiber in a bath of clean, room temperature water to wet in preparation for dyeing. Never add dry textile to a dyebath.
  • Add your fiber and soak. Squeeze out your fiber and add to dye pot—the temperature of the bath should be room temperature.
  • Wearing gloves, work under the surface of the water for a minute or two. Leave and allow to sit for at least an hour. Look at the fiber: it should be a light yellow/orange to orange/red tone. This is an indication that the process is going well.
  • Start to Heat your madder bath. From room-temperature, slowly raise to a simmer (about 180F) over the course of at least an hour. Make sure to keep the temperature steady and below a simmer. Do not allow the temperature to drop once you begin to raise it. Stir gently and not very often. Once 175F - 180F is reached hold for 2-3 hours.
  • Monitor the fiber carefully: the timing is not always the same.

Remember its tempting to say “good enough? When you see your desired result in the pot… but once the fabric is finished drying the results will be significantly lighter. Its best to wait!

  • Allow to cool in the pot—overnight is great!

 

7. Finish your textile.

  • Rinse cooled textile well in warm water, then transfer to a second bath of warm water with some neutral detergent.
  • Without rinsing, transfer to a pot the same size as your dye pot, full of warm water.
  • Add 1cup wheat bran per gallon and boil for at least an hour. This stage removes excess dye and brightens your tone.
  • Rinse well in warm-hot water (do not shock your textile by going hot-to-cold or cold-to-hot) and hang to dry.

Dyeing with Black Walnut Paste

 

Download a printable pdf version of this recipe.

Before dyeing with walnut paste, be sure to mordant your fibers accordingly.

Tip: Mordanting

Before dyeing with black walnut, mordant your fibers with alum for lighter colors or iron for deep, dark browns.

In beginning any new project, the proper amount of Black Walnut Paste needs to be calculated.

  1. Measure the weight of fabric, WOF.  We recommend using 50-100% WOF dye paste for dark browns and 5-20% WOF for tans and khakis. 

For example, if you are dying 500 grams (1 pound) worth of fiber, you would need 250-500 grams of paste for dark browns and 25 - 100 grams for tans.

If we are calculating 50% WOF black walnut paste this would be our formula:

Weight of Fiber x 0.5 = Amount of Black Walnut Paste needed (by weight)

2. To prepare your dye bath, fill a pot with warm water, enough to allow your fiber to float freely. Mix the pre-measured paste with hot water for several minutes or until it's completely dissolved.

3. You are now ready to begin dyeing! We recommend getting your mordanted fabrics wet and ringing them out until they are damp, this helps evenly distribute the dye.

4. Once the fabric is in, slowly begin heating your water to a simmer, about 90 degrees F, to dye cotton. For wool or silk, increase the temperature to just below a boil, at 180 degrees F. 

Tip: Modifier

Pair the dye bath or over-dye with madder root to produce purple mahoganies.  

5. Long dye times are recommended to maximize color uptake. Simmer for 1-2 hours. Ensure the dye is able to penetrate every bit of fabric by gently stirring throughout.

6. The final step is to rinse the dyed fabrics a few times and wash using a pH-neutral liquid detergent, like Dr. Bronner’s.

INDIGO VAT RECIPES

We have tested and written 3 types of easy indigo vat recipes for the home-dyer.

For first-time dyers we recommend using one of our Iron, Fructose, and Hydro Natural Indigo Kits, which align perfectly with our recipes.

All dyers may follow along with our Natural Dye Tutorials on Youtube. Videos are linked below.

Fructose Vat

Download a printable pdf version of this recipe.

This 1-2-3 vat recipe is courtesy of Liz Spencer aka @thedogwooddyer, enjoy!

Ingredients: We offer Natural Indigo Fructose Vat Kits with all necessary ingredients included.

Included with our Kit:

  • 100g powdered Stony Creek Colors 25% natural indigo 1 part
  • 200g calcium hydroxide 2 parts which is an Alkaline/Base
  • 300g fructose crystals 3 parts which is a Reducing Agent

Not Included:

  • For plant-based fibers, like cotton, use 2 tsp synthrapol or detergent (neutral soap) and 8 tsp soda ash (alkaline surfactant) per pound of fiber
  • 5-gallon stainless steel pot which can be found online or most big box stores
  • 1 tsp of Orvus Paste per 1 lb wool or silk fiber being dyed

Tip: If you use paste instead of powder with the 1-2-3 method, use 200g of paste.

“This recipe will dye up to 2.2lbs of fiber a dark blue. There will also be enough indigo left to dye other items a slightly lighter shade. This vat recipe is based on the traditional indigo vats of Morocco, India, and Provence and was developed and revived by Michel Garcia. It relies on the chemical reactions between a mineral alkali and a natural reducing agent to remove excess oxygen (a chemical process called reduction). Reduction takes the oxygen from the indigo dye molecule liberating and allowing it to be soluble in water and to attach and bond to fibers. Natural reducing agents absorb oxygen and are known as antioxidants. They include dried and fresh sugar-rich fruits, minerals, flavonoids, medicinal plants, and even other dye-plants and substances (henna, dates, iron/ferrous sulfate/copperas, yeast). Without a reducing agent and alkaline substance, the indigo would not dissolve in the water and would remain suspended and unavailable for the fiber to access.”

- Liz Spencer

Instructions:

  • Scour fabric: scouring is a hot water wash that removes industrial sizing, dirt, waxes, oils, lanolin (wool), sericin (silk) and pectic substances (plant fibers) from your substrate to be dyed. For plant fibers use 2 tsp synthrapol or detergent (neutral soap) and 8 tsp soda ash (alkaline surfactant) per pound of fiber. Add scouring agents to your very hot water wash in a machine, or to a clean pot of very hot water (above 160 degrees F) and let scour for an hour while stirring. Scouring ensures even take up of the dye. Fabrics sold as “Ready for Dyeing” sometimes do not need to be scoured.

Protein-based fibers, like silk and wool, are usually best scoured by hand using Orvus Paste (1 tsp per 1 lb fiber being dyed) or gentle soap with hot water that doesn’t exceed 160 degrees F so as not to damage or “felt” the fibers.

  • Bring water in a large pot 2/3 full to 120 degrees.
  • While you wait for the water to heat, mix the indigo with enough water to wet it out entirely, getting rid of gritty clumps. An easy way to hydrate the indigo is to add it to water in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and some marbles and shake well for a few minutes. If you are substituting the powder with indigo paste, please skip this step and add the paste directly to your vat along with the other ingredients.  
    • For Indigo Paste: The measurements for paste vary. 50 grams of powder is equivalent to 125 grams of paste. For example, if you are planning on using 30 grams of indigo for a 5-gallon bucket, you would need 75 grams of paste.

  • Add this indigo solution to the hot water in the pot, then stir in the calcium hydroxide.
  • Finally, add the fructose and stir well.
  • The vat may take up to 45 minutes to be ready and sometimes takes overnight to reduce.
  • Wearing gloves, submerge your pre-wet materials in the vat carefully and gently rub the material while submerged for a few minutes. Then taking care not to agitate, stir or drip back into the vat, remove the materials.
  • As the materials are being removed, let them drip into a bucket nearby. The indigo rich contents of the bucket can be recycled back into the vat when you recalibrate it for later use.
  • Allow up to half an hour between dips so the fiber can fully oxidize with the material hanging in a shady spot. When you’re happy with the depth of color (remember some of the indigo will rinse off, and that plant fibers such as cotton tend to dry a few shades lighter) rinse in cool water until there is no longer any indigo rinsing off.
  • For the integrity of the fiber add a bit of vinegar to the final rinse/soak to neutralize the alkalinity of the calcium hydroxide (especially for protein-based fibers like wool and silk).

Iron Vat

 

Download a printable pdf version of this recipe.

An iron vat is the ideal recipe to achieve beautiful saturated blues on cotton, linen, and other plant-based fibers. It is not recommended for protein-based fibers, like wool and silk, as the iron may cause discoloration or brittleness of the fabric.

Once set up, the vat does not require heating and may last for weeks or months when covered, only needing to be replenished occasionally.

To make a vat, you must make a concentrated solution containing dissolved (reduced) indigo and then add it to the large vat container. A 5-gallon bucket works well depending on the size of your project. We offer all necessary ingredients for this vat in our Natural Indigo Iron Vat Kit.

Ingredients: All ingredients are based on using a 5-gallon bucket

  • 50g of Stony Creek Colors Natural Indigo
  • 35g Iron (Ferrous Sulfate)
  • 44g Pickled Lime (Calcium Hydroxide)
  • A 5-gallon tall and narrow bucket with a lid to serve as a vat container
  • A lidded pot or large jar for the stock solution. Tip: It should be about a quarter (25%) the size of your vat. A 2 quarts pot to 1-gallon pot will serve well.
  • For Paste: If you are substituting the powder for indigo paste, measurements differ. 50g of powder is equivalent to 125 grams of paste. For example, if you are planning on using 30 grams of indigo for a 5-gallon bucket, you would need 75 grams of paste.

All dyestuff must first be processed to extract the pigment. In beginning any new project, the proper amount of Indigo needs to be calculated. We first determine the total volume, amount of water in gallons, of your vat. The stock solution, indigo, should be a quarter (25%) of the volume of your final vat.

If you are substituting the powder with indigo paste, please skip the "Indigo Stock Solution" step and add the paste directly to your vat along with the other ingredients.  

 

Indigo Stock Solution:

Use 17g to every gallon of Stony Creek Colors Natural Indigo for a very strong vat when dyeing plant-based fibers. For a slower-building vat, use 9g SSC Natural indigo per gallon.

The recipe below uses about 13g natural indigo/gallon.

In 100% active indigo this ranges from 3-6 g/gal equivalent. For example, if you are making a strong 5-gallon vat with 40% High-Purity Natural Indigo, use about 85 grams.

To make a 4-gallon vat from 50g of SCC natural indigo, you will need about 17.5g of active dye. Per 50g natural indigo powder, use 35g Iron and 44g Pickling Lime.

Preparing your Indigo:

  • Dissolve Indigo paste thoroughly in hot water
  • Dissolve Pickling Lime in 0.5 L of warm water
  • Dissolve Iron Sulfate in 0.5 - 1 L of warm water (add more water if necessary)
  • Fill a large container, such as a pot or 2-quart mason jar with a lid with warm water (50C or 120F), leaving room for the above ingredients.
  • Add indigo, then the dissolved iron, then the pickling lime. Stir well before adding the next ingredient.
  • Let it sit with the lid on for 2-3 hours. The stock will change color from blue to brownish-yellow.

Preparing the Vat:

Use a container, preferably plastic, that is as tall and narrow as possible. A good container to use is a 5-gallon bucket with a lid.

  • Fill the vat, leaving enough room for the stock solution, with 90-120 degree F water.

For the 4-gallon vat recipe above, you will need 92g of pickling lime and 30g of iron.

If you are making a larger or smaller vat, use 23g of pickling lime and 7-8g iron per gallon.

  • Paste the lime with water and dissolve the iron in warm tap water, then add the lime followed by the iron to the vat.
  • Stir well, then wait 30 minutes to 1 hour before adding the indigo stock solution. Avoid stirring roughly and pour the stock carefully to minimize the amount of air that is introduced to the vat. The final color of the vat should be brownish-yellow.

Allow the sediment to settle completely before using the vat, and take care to avoid letting the fabric touch the sediment at the bottom of your bucket. We like to put a raised stainless metal grating at the bottom of the vat. If the sediment does discolor the fabric, a good soak in vinegar will sometimes remove the stains.

Dyeing with Indigo:

  • Scour fabric: Scouring is a hot water wash that removes industrial sizing, dirt, waxes, oils, lanolin (wool), sericin (silk), and pectic substances (plant-based fibers) from your fabrics.

For plant-based fibers use 2 tsp synthrapol or pH-neutral detergent and 8 tsp soda ash (alkaline surfactant) per pound of fiber. Add scouring agents to your very hot water wash in a machine, or to a clean pot of very hot water (above 160 degrees F) and let scour for an hour while stirring. Scouring ensures even color. Fabrics sold as “Ready for Dyeing” sometimes do not need to be scoured.

Protein-based fibers, like silk and wool, are usually best scoured by hand using Orvus Paste (1 tsp per 1 lb fiber being dyed) or gentle soap with hot water that doesn’t exceed 160 degrees F, so as not to damage or “felt” the fibers.

You can scour a bunch of materials at once and do not need to dye them all right away. Just make sure they are dry before you store them.

  • Wearing gloves, pre-wet scoured material with water then submerge the materials into the vat carefully.
  • You want to minimize the amount of oxygen you are adding to the vat by adding slowly and not lifting up and down a lot.

Tip: To get your materials more evenly dyed, we suggest gently rub the material with your hands staying submerged below the surface for a few minutes. If you are dyeing shibori or tied garments and not worried about even tones throughout, you can place them in there and fish them out when ready.

  • For all indigo dyeing, regardless of vat type, you want to build up color through successive dips. Start with longer dips (5-10 minutes) and then follow up with shorter dips (30 seconds - 1 minute) to deepen the shade.
  • Taking care not to agitate, stir or drip back into the vat, then remove the materials.
  • As the materials are being removed, let them drip into a nearby bucket. The indigo rich contents of the bucket can be recycled back into the vat when you recalibrate it for later use.
  • Allow a minimum of 10 minutes and a max of 30 minutes between dips so the fiber can fully oxidize with the material hanging in a shady spot. When you’re happy with the depth of color, rinse it off and let it dry.

Remember some of the indigo will run off, and plant-based fibers tend to dry a few shades lighter than their color when wet. So, if you love a color you have reached in the vat, at least dip it one more time!

Tip: If you want a very light color for your final garment, make the vat less strong by adding less indigo stock, and do shorter dips. You want at least three dips even if they are short. Rinse in cool water until most of the unfixed indigo is rinsed out.

  • For the integrity of the fiber, add a bit of vinegar or citric acid to the final soak (especially for protein-based fibers like wool and silk). Then rinse again! Indigo may still rub off so we would suggest being careful with your first few times wearing the garment (DON'T sit on any white couches!).

Maintaining Your Vat:

To keep the vat working as long as possible, stir it thoroughly once per day.

If the vat turns greenish, add a maximum of 15g/gal iron sulfate, stir thoroughly, and allow to settle before checking the color again.

If the vat turns blueish, add a small amount of lime (1-2g/gallon). Again, stir thoroughly and allow to resettle before checking the color.

 

Hydro Vat

 

Download a printable pdf version of this recipe.

This is the fastest vat and works well for all types of fabrics. We are using Rit Color Remover as the chemical reducing agent because it is widely available for a gallon vat. You can use hydro or thiourea dioxide if those are more accessible to you. We offer Natural Indigo Hydro Vat Kits with all necessary ingredients included.

Ingredients: This recipe is for a 2-gallon vat

  • 15g of Stony Creek Colors Natural Indigo (25%) or 10g of Stony Creek Colors High Purity Indigo (40%)
  • 15g of Rit Color Remover (contains sodium dithionite also known as hydrosulfite)
  • 4 g of Sodium carbonate for protein-based fibers (wool or silk) or 10 g for plant-based fibers (cotton or linen)
  • 2 gallons of water
  • A stock pot (minimum of 2.5 gallons)
  • For Paste: If you are substituting the powder for indigo paste, measurements differ. 50g of powder is equivalent to 125 grams of paste. For example, if you are planning on using 30 grams of indigo for a 5-gallon bucket, you would need 75 grams of paste.

Preparing the Dye Vat:

  • Pre-wet the indigo in the quart jar.
  • Mix the indigo with enough water to wet it out entirely, getting rid of gritty clumps. Tip: An easy way to hydrate the indigo is to add it to water in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and some marbles; shake well for a few minutes. If you do this, we suggest you remove marbles before dyeing. Note: If you are substituting the powder with indigo paste, please skip this step and add the paste directly to your vat along with the other ingredients.  
  • First, you will need to make a “stock solution”. Add the pasted indigo and half of the sodium carbonate to a quart jar and fill about a third of the way with 140 F water. Make sure both powders are thoroughly mixed and then fill the jar nearly full with more hot water.
  • Sprinkle in ¾ of the Rit Color Remover, stir gently, and screw the cap onto the jar.
  • Let the stock solution sit to reduce for at least 15 minutes. You should see the color go to green or yellow.

Tip: It is a good idea to place this mason jar upright and sealed into a larger container in case it leaks. Placing it in warm water will help speed up the reaction. If after 15 minutes you slowly turn and rotate the jar and see a lot of settled indigo or while at the bottom, gently rotate to try to get that indigo into suspension.

  • Meanwhile, fill your pot with just under 2 gallons of water at about 120F-140F (remember you still need to add your 1-quart stock solution to this pot). Room temp water is fine but may take slightly longer to reduce.
  • Add remaining Rit Color Remover and sodium carbonate. Tip: The target pH of your vat should be around 10 after the stock is added. If you aren’t getting close to that add more sodium carbonate. Prepare the vat by adding the remaining Rit Color Remover to the vat vessel with 120-140 F water.
  • Add the stock solution to the vat vessel (2.5-gallon pot). Stir gently without splashing and wait 10-15 minutes for it to go fully into reduction.

Dyeing with Indigo:

  • Scour fabric: Scouring is a hot water wash that removes industrial sizing, dirt, waxes, oils, lanolin (wool), sericin (silk) and pectic substances (plant-based fibers) from your fabric.

For plant-based fibers use 2 tsp synthrapol or detergent (neutral soap) and 8 tsp soda ash (alkaline surfactant) per pound of fabric. Add scouring agents to your very hot water wash in a machine, or to a clean pot of very hot water (above 160 degrees F) and let scour for an hour while stirring. Scouring ensures even take up of the dye. Fabrics sold as “Ready for Dyeing” sometimes do not need to be scoured.

Protein-based fibers, like silk and wool, are usually best scoured by hand using Orvus Paste (1 tsp per 1 lb fiber being dyed) or gentle soap with hot water that doesn’t exceed 160 degrees F, so as not to damage or “felt” the fibers.

You can scour a bunch of materials at once and do not need to dye them all right away. Just make sure they are dry before you store them.

  • Wearing gloves, pre-wet scoured material with water then submerge the materials into the vat carefully. You want to minimize the amount of oxygen you are adding to the vat by adding slowly and not lifting up and down a lot.

Tip: To get your materials more evenly dyed, we suggest gently rub the material with your hands staying submerged below the surface for a few minutes. If you are dyeing shibori or tied garments and not worried about even tones throughout, you can place them in there and fish them out when ready.  

  • For all indigo dyeing, regardless of vat type, you want to build up color through successive dips. Start with longer dips (5-10 minutes) and then follow up with shorter dips (30 seconds - 1 minute) to deepen the shade.
  • Then, taking care not to agitate, stir or drip back into the vat, remove the materials.
  • As the materials are being removed, let them drip into a nearby bucket. The indigo rich contents of the bucket can be recycled back into the vat when you recalibrate it for later use.
  • Allow a minimum of 10 minutes and a max of 30 minutes between dips so the fiber can fully oxidize with the material hanging in a shady spot. When you’re happy with the depth of color. Remember some of the indigo will rinse off, and that plant-based fibers tend to dry a few shades lighter than their color when wet. So, if you love a color you have reached in the vat, at least dip it one more time!

Tip: If you want a very light color for your final garment, make the vat less strong by adding less indigo stock, and do shorter dips. You want at least three dips even if they are short. Rinse in cool water until a lot of the unfixed indigo is rinsed off.

  • For the integrity of the fiber, add a bit of vinegar or citric acid to the final soak (especially for protein-based fibers like wool and silk). Then rinse again! Indigo may still rub off so we would suggest being careful with your first few times wearing the garment (DON’T sit on any white couches!).

Want to dye something bigger? For A 10 Gallon Vat You Will Need:

    • 70g 25% SCC indigo
    • 70g Rit Color Remover
    • 18g sodium carbonate for wool or silk and 26g for cotton
    • 1-quart jar for stock solution
    • Use a 10 gallon (40 quarts) stainless steel pot and use 9 gallons of water for your vat which can be found online or in most big box stores

 

MORDANT RECIPES

Dye assists are various chemical and natural compounds used to scour or mordant fibers, or modify colors.

Explore all our dye assists we offer and follow along to our recipes to learn how to improve the life of your color.

Mordanting with Myrobalan 

 

Myrobalan is used as both a dye or a mordant for plant-based fibers, like cotton and linen.

Mordanting with myrobalan will create a yellowish undertone to your textile. 

In beginning any new project, the proper amount of Myrobalan Powder needs to be calculated.  

1. First we need to measure the weight of fabric, WOF. We recommend using 15-20% WOF for all plant-based fibers. For example, if you are dying 500 grams (1 pound) worth of fiber, you would need 75-100 grams of powder.

If we are calculating 20% of myrobalan powder this would be our formula:

Weight of Fiber x 0.2 = Amount of Myrobalan powder needed (by weight)

2. To prepare your mordant bath, fill a pot with warm water, enough to allow your fiber to float freely.

3. Add the pre-measured powder and stir well until it's completely liquid.

4. Once the fabric is in, slowly begin heating your water to about 180 degrees F, above a simmer but below a boil with slight steam, for about an hour.

5. Follow this with a second bath of 8-10% WOF with alum. This second bath is essential in ensuring the dye will adhere to the fabric and achieve brighter, more even colors.