Natural Dyes


Kassim is the black/grey dye which is obtained from jaggery, rusted iron in water. These materials are immersed in water for 21 days and the reaction of molasses and iron fillings becomes ferrous acetate. This vat is stored and kept untouched. This solution in reaction with tannin (myrobalan, pomegranate, etc) turns into black or grey in regard with the percentage of tannin to kassim in water.



Sappan Wood (Caesalpinia Sappan), cultivated in India, gives natural dyes with medicinal properties.The dye stuff is obtained from the tree’s heartwood. It yields various hues such as red, pink, purple and orange depending on the pH. The same dyebath can be used multiple times to produce progressively lighter shades before the dyestuff finally gets exhausted.


Myrobalan (Terminalia chebula) mainly grows in the foothills of the Himalayas. The dye comes from the dried fruits, ground into a powder. It works equally well as a mordant and a dye for cotton and other plant fibres. The dye grows deeper and richer with exposure to light. It yields various shades of yellow and gives out more vibrant yellows when added with turmeric.


Madder (Rubia tinctorum) has traditionally been in use in Turkey, India and Iran for dyeing carpets. It is capable of producing turkey reds, mulberry, orange-red, terracotta. The dyebath can be reused further for lighter shades. The colour also depends on the soil, their age, water used for dyeing, temperature of the dye pot, and the quantity of madder used.


Extracted from the resin secreted by the insect Kerria lacca, Lac has been in use historically as a colourant for leather, wool and silk. It is found in plenty throughout India, south east Asia, Nepal, Burma, Bhutan and south China. Lac extract yields crimsons, pinks, purples and burgundy reds using an alum mordant.


Traditionally used by the ancients of Asia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Britain, and Peru, Indigofera tinctoria yields a blue dyestuff obtained by fermenting its leaves. Some indigo plant varieties are used medicinally , while others are ornamental. The iconic indigo shade is obtained by reduction of the dyestuff followed by mild oxidation.


Ratanjot (Alkanna tinctoria), native to Southern Europe, thrives in a warm and dry climate on sandy soil. The dye produced from its dried roots can be used to obtain shades of grey, lavender and purple when simmered in water. The concentrate is obtained from the roots by soaking them in water, simmering and straining the resultant liquid.


A dyestuff of great historical importance, Cutch has a district in Gujarat named after it called Kutch. It is obtained from the heartwood of Acacia catechu. It yields various shades of brown equally well on cotton, silk and wool. Subsequent dyeing from the same dyebath at one go produces progressively paler shades.

Pomegranate peel

Pomegranate rind is used to produce golden yellows, greens, greys and blacks that has been traditionally used as a dye by carpet makers. It works exceptionally well with cotton and other plant fibres due to it being high in tannin. Pomegranate rinds are popular for eco-printing as well. Mordanted fabric is simply simmered in a dyebath containing the concentrate obtained from the rind.