How to Dye Fibres with Natural Dyes

by Christa Clay

Download the designed version for home printing here


Materials List

Sheep’s Wool

White wool and silk are generally accepted as the fibres which most readily accept natural dyes. During the dye process, the microscales within wool fibres open up to allow the dyes to penetrate into its internal structure

Before wool can be mordanted or dyed, it must be cleaned — this method method is called scouring. Any grease, dirt, or wax on the fibres may resist the mordant or dye, leaving areas which remain the color of the raw material while the cleaned portion takes the dye color.


Goldenrod Petals or Willow Leaves

Goldenrod are at peak bloom in late summer/early fall and Willow leaves appear in late spring/summer.

Always harvest respectfully, with permission, and prudently — only take what you need, and never more than 1/3 of what you see.


Iron Modifier

  1. Add base into a jar, 1 part vinegar, 2 parts water.
  2. Add rusty nails (the solution will turn orange in three weeks)
  3. Puncture lid with holes.

Designated Dye Pot

one not used for consumables.


Scour the wool, if it is not clean

  1. Fill a washing basin with hot water (160-180F) and add pH-neutral soap)
  2. Gently submerge the fibres and let them sit for 20-30 minutes. remove them and refill the basin
  3. Repeat the process until the water in the basin remains clear a˝ er the fibres are reintroduced. Use a scrap sheet of wood to prop up the fibres so that they drain and dry. Avoid squeezing or overhandling the fibres.


Prepare the dyebath

Put the flowers/leaves/stems in the dye pot and cover with water enough for your fibres to float ˜ eely. on med-high heat and let the vat come to a simmer (160-185F) for 1 to 2 hours, or until the water turns into a deep shade of yellow (golden-rod) or purple (wiillow). strain the vat (or catch all organic matter ˜ om the pot) and add prewetted fibre to the pot.


Warm wool slowly in a pot of water

On medium to low heat, and let the fibres sit in the bath for 1 hour or until you are satisfied with their color. Avoid agitating the wool or it will felt.


Hang dyed fibres in the shade

For 20 minutes before rinsing in warm or cool water. Then hang to dry again in the shade.



*use an iron modifier to intensify dye colour, pre-wet fibres before mordanting with iron use designated pot when making modifier.