For centuries, people use natural materials like flowers, stem, root, leaves, etc. to create dyes. Natural dues not only produce soothing colors but also provide long-lasting effects on fabrics. But, in the last few decades, natural dyes usage has decreased due to the availability of synthetic dyes because they are cheap and give brighter shades. Since synthetic dyes are synthesized from petrochemical substances, hence they are hazardous to the environment, aquatic life as well as humans. Thanks to those who care about the environment and promote the use of natural dyes. This has not only increased the craze of natural & organic dyes but also has made people aware. Now, the obsession of natural dyes can be seen everywhere from traditional clothes to international fashion runways.
In today’s world, as people are getting more concerned about the environment, they want everything organic and ethical. There are a lot of natural materials present that can be used to create dyes producing different hues on different types of fabric. Let’s see some famous plants from which natural dyes can be made:
- Chamomile: This special flower along with herbal and medicinal properties also has dyeing ability. It produces medium to strong yellow dyes. This dye is beat for protein fibers and hence often used in Turkish carpets to give a warm and strong yellow color. When mixed with madder, it can also produce tangerine colors. Its plantation is mostly done in North America, Europe, and throughout the Himalaya region.
- Henna: Everyone is familiar with Henna as it is used on the skin to create temporary designs. But its usage is not only limited to that, it is also used to dye fabrics. Henna yields brown to mustard yellow color dye, which is extracted from its leaves. Due to its great bonding with proteins, it is used to dye leather, silk, and wool fabrics. Along with India, Pakistan, Sudan, and Egypt, it is also cultivated in some Middle East countries.
- Jack fruit: It’s a very popular edible fruit grown in Southeast Asia. Yellow to brown shades of dyes can also be extracted from the bark of tree. Earlier it was used for dyeing silk and cotton robes of Buddhist priests, but now it is also used for dyeing jute fabrics. When combined with different ingredients it yields variations of yellow like olive-yellow with chromium, light yellow with aluminum, and dark yellow with tin mordants.
- Madder: Madder is one of the oldest dyes, as it’s trace can be found in Indus Valley civilization. The dye is extracted from the root of the Madder plant and is used to dye fibers like cotton, silk, and wool. It produces varieties of red including turkey red, mulberry, orange-red, terracotta, etc. When combined with other natural dyes like indigo, it can yield color like crimson, purple, rust, brown, and black.
- Marigold: Marigold is a very popular plant cultivated all over the world for its flower which is used in worshipping and decorating religious places. Except for decorating, it is an excellent source of yellow dye. Its flowers are used to dye fabrics like cotton and silk. It is native to South America, Mexico and U.S., but now it is grown worldwide.
- Onion: Yes, dyes can also be made from kitchen waste. The peels of onion are a great source of dye as they create their own tannins and hence they don’t need a mordant. Peels of different color onions can yield different colors ranging from red, orange, and even brown. Both cellulosic and protein-based fibers can be dyed by it.
- Pomegranate: Pomegranate or anaar is an edible fruit native to the Middle East and South Asian countries. Even during the peeling process, our hands are stained by Pomegranate so why can’t it be used to stain fabric. The rind/peel of pomegranate fruit which is considered as waste is used to produce aromatic dyes. It is used for dyeing wool, silk, and cotton fiber in soft yellow to green-yellow color. Since Pomegranate is rich in natural tannins hence is also used as a tanning material.
- Walnut: From the walnut plant, the dyestuff is extracted from the bark of the tree and the outer shell of the walnut fruit. The skin of walnut can literally dye anything from skin to fabric. It produces beautiful earth-tones of brown color on natural fabrics like cotton, linen, muslin, silk, and wool. The fabrics dyed with this dye have good fastness properties.
- Nettle: Yeah, you read it correctly; I am talking about stinging nettles which cause skin irritations. It has sharp hairs on its leaves which cause irritation once it comes in contact with skin. It’s a herbal plant that is also used to create dye of multiple shades of green. The dye is extracted from the leaves of the plant and mostly used for wool fibers. It is native to Europe but now it is found worldwide.
- Teak: Teak is not only known for its quality timber but also dyeing ability. It is used traditionally by women of Manipur to dye silk, but cotton fabric can also be dyed by it. The bark of the tree and leaves are used for extracting dye which ranges from skin color to dark brown, giving different tones of browns and greys. Teak is native to India but it grows throughout Southeast Asia.
Nature never goes out of style!