Natural Dye


Made in

Biodegradable 242 Dye 48 Fibre 68 Plant-based 176 Textile 96 Vegan 93 Alum 5 Calcium carbonate 7 Fabric 2 Guar gum 4 Plant 3 Sodium carbonate 3 Vinegar 16 Wheat bran 2

Natural Dye
Natural Dye
Natural Dye
Natural Dye
Natural Dye

Photos: Addoley Dzegede, Lyndon Barrois Jr.

Mordant Printing

Using this concentrated, thickened mordant allows you to screen print, block print or paint on cotton (or other cellulose) fabrics to be naturally dyed. There are two methods: direct printing with dye concentrates mixed into a mordant paste, and printing with mordant in order to immersion dye after. With the latter method, the fabric can be immersion-dyed in a natural dye bath and, for most dyes, the colour will concentrate only where the mordant has been applied.

Making process

This particular example uses both direct printing with natural dyes (green and yellow) and mordant printing before using a dye bath (red). It was dyed first in an indigo vat using the Indonesian wax resist technique of batik tulis (batik and indigo dyeing instructions not included here).

This is a recipe for that method:
- containers for weighing and mixing
- kitchen scale
- spoons
- brushes, wooden stamps, stencils, or silk screens
- dust mask

*Aluminum Acetate Print Paste*
- can be kept for just a couple of days, covered and stored in a cool place

10g - alum (potassium aluminum sulfate)
5g - soda ash (sodium carbonate)
85g - vinegar (acetic acid)
1g - guar gum

Mix the alum and soda ash in a tall container (because the next step will generate a lot of rising bubbles).
Add the vinegar, stirring until the bubbling stops.
Add the guar gum, a little at a time, while stirring. Let sit for half an hour to fully absorb.
Paint or print with this paste on clean, dry fabric with a brush, silkscreen, or printing block. Let dry fully, overnight or longer if possible. (I recommend drawing with pencil where you want to print or paint, because this paste is clear. However, many texts recommend using a tiny bit of brazilwood extract to colour the paste to make it visible.)

Proceed to the "Chalk + Wheat Bran dunging" instructions.

After the dunging step, you can dye the fabric following the "Dyeing instructions".


*Dunging with Chalk + Wheat Bran*
(can be used multiple times)

The wheat bran will take off excess gum from the fabric. You can also use some watery wheat bran to remove the gum from any clogged screens after printing.

chalk (calcium carbonate), 10g per liter of water
wheat bran, 20g (or a handful) per liter of water)

- plastic bucket or large stainless steel pot
- kitchen scale
- stirring spoon

Dissolve the chalk and wheat bran in hot water, stirring thoroughly. Use enough water to cover your fabric.
Add your dried fabric to the bath and leave to soak for 15+ minutes.
Rinse your fabric well and proceed to the dyeing process.


*Dyeing Instructions*

Making a dye bath is fairly simple: you simmer plant materials in water, add fibre and simmer a bit more. There are nuances. For example, madder should stay under ~80℃, otherwise the colour may go brown. Weld and madder both dye brighter with a pinch of chalk.

If you want to use dye extracts in powder or liquid form, you can usually find instructions on the site you order them from. Here are basic dyeing instructions that will work for most raw materials:

Dye material - weigh first, then soak overnight if using dried leaves, roots, or anything woody. Usually, if using fresh instead of dried materials, you will want to use an amount at least equal to the weight of whatever you are dyeing, aka 100% WOF. WOF is the weight of your fabric/fibre when dry.

- large stainless steel pot - as copper or iron will affect the colour. Don’t use any pots you plan to use again for cooking; have a separate pot designated only for dyeing.
- plastic bucket
- heat source - burner or hot plate. The best ones to use for dyeing are ones that let you choose the temperature in degrees. It’s especially important to know the temperature when dyeing with madder.
- thermometer (only if your heat source doesn't show the temperature in degrees)
- kitchen scale - you will need this for all steps of dyeing
- stirring spoon - stainless steel or plastic, as wooden spoons sometimes transfer colour from the last dye session
- mesh bag - like a lingerie or produce bag. This makes it easy to either keep the dye material in the pot while dyeing (without making a mess of bits getting stuck to your fabric), or removing the dye material before you add the fabric

Soak your mordanted fibre in a bucket of plain water while you are making the dye bath.
Heat to just under a simmer your dye materials in a mesh bag in just enough water to cover them for 30 to 45 minutes. Don’t boil; keep at ~80℃.
Strain and reserve both the dyestuff and the liquid separately.
Put the dyestuff back in the pot and simmer again with fresh water to extract more dye.
Add your first extraction back into the pot.
Add your wetted fabric/fibre to the dye bath. Add more water if needed to cover the fibre and allow it to move freely.
Keep at ~80℃ for 1 hour. Turn off the heat and let the fibre cool in the liquid, ideally overnight.
Rinse thoroughly in clean water.

This recipe is modified from the book Cut From a Bigger Cloth, by Addoley Dzegede, published by Limestone Books, Maastricht in 2023.

Text submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank. For information about reproducing (a part of) this text, please contact the maker.


cotton fabric, dried dye plants or natural dye extracts (madder and weld), alum (potassium aluminium sulfate), soda ash (sodium carbonate), vinegar (acetic acid), guar gum, chalk (calcium carbonate), wheat bran


These experiments were published in a book by Addoley Dzegede and designed by JVE alumna Karoline Świeżyński.