Plant Dye Information
Here at The ANJELMS Project, we are committed to producing collections solely form natural plant-based dyes and handmade processes. From hand looming our khadi cotton, hand cut block printing our designs, dyeing, cutting, sewing and packing our garments (which means that we have a very small carbon footprint!). All of this is to be able to provide work and a fair living wage for the team at The Stitching Project, many of whom would not have it otherwise, and is one of the most vital of our core values as an ethically produced business.
Within the ground of their workshop in Pushkar, India, Praveen Nayak (pictured below) at The Stitching Project hand dyes all of our handloomed fabrics. All of the plant-based dyes the we use meet the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) and are environmentally friendly both in the process of the dyeing and in the maintenance and washing of the garment itself once its in your collection. The certified powdered extracts that we work with are prepared by being boiled to extract the colour and then dehydrated. This ensures that we are able to maintain a balanced concentration when dyeing our hand looms in order to obtain a consistent and reliable shade in each batch of our production.
With this in mind, each batch does vary slightly from the next, and small inconsistencies do occur on occasion. As natural plant-based dye enthusiasts, we believe that this adds character to each garment. With time and a multitude of washes, plant-based dyes do fade gracefully with time, but slightly quicker than the synthetic dyes that we are used to in mass produced fast fashion, so be mindful of the way that you care for your Anjelms pieces, as they continue to move with you throughout your ethical journey here on Earth.
Do NOT bleach your plant based dyed garments. Gentle warm wash as per the care label instructions and dry in the shade. Darker shades of plant dyeing such as indigo do rub slightly in the first couple of wears as they are such dense colours, but are pre washed between the dyeing process and the block print/cutting stages of production.
In the spirit of transparency and to provide a useful educational guide on all of our processes, we have put together a concise list of all of the natural plant dyes in our repertoire.
We use Tinctora Indigo, grown locally in Rajahsthan. Scientifically named Indigofera Tinctoria, which is known in the dyeing trade as ‘True Indigo’, and is a species of plant from the legume family. It is a type of bean that was one of the original sources of indigo dye, and has since been naturalised to tropical and temperate Asia and parts of Africa. It’s Native Habitat is currently unknown, as it has been cultivated worldwide for so many centuries.
True Indigo grows as a shrub one to two metres high and interestingly may be an annual, biennial, or perennial, depending on the climate in which it is grown. It has light green pinnate leaves and sheafs of pink or violet flowers.
Dye is obtained from the processing of the plant's leaves. They are soaked in water and fermented in order to convert the glycoside indican naturally present in the plant to the blue dye indigotin. The precipitate from the fermented leaf solution is mixed with a strong base such as lye.
Indigo does not form a chemical bond with the fabric, as other dyes. Instead it forms a physical bond, bonding molecularly to the fabric when reduced. The reduced state is also necessary because indigo cannot dissolve in water. When the indigo molecules bond to the fabric and it is re-vatted, the indigo forms layers – like bricks. This makes indigo very impervious to sunlight, but indigo will fade with rubbing. Indigo dye is an organic compound with a distinctive blue colour.
Rubia tinctorum, the common madder or dyer's madder, is a herbaceous perennial plant species belonging to the bedstraw and coffee family Rubiaceae.
It has been used since ancient times as a vegetable red dye for leather, wool, cotton and silk. For dye production, the roots are harvested after two years. The outer brown layer gives the common variety of the dye, the lower yellow layer the refined variety. The dye is fixed to the cloth with help of a mordant, most commonly alum. Madder can be fermented for dyeing as well (Fleurs de garance).
The roots contain the acid ruberthyrin. By drying, fermenting or a treatment with acids, this is changed to sugar, alizarin and purpurin, which were first isolated by the French chemist Pierre Jean Robiquet in 1826. Purpurin is normally not coloured, but is red when dissolved in alkaline solutions. Mixed with clay and treated with alum and ammonia, it gives a brilliant red colourant (madder lake).
Lac is the scarlet resinous secretion of a number of species of lac insects, of which the most commonly cultivated is Kerria lacca.
Cultivation begins when a farmer gets a stick (broodlac) that contains eggs ready to hatch and ties it to the tree to be infested. Thousands of lac insects colonize the branches of the host trees and secrete the resinous pigment. The coated branches of the host trees are cut and harvested as sticklac.
Lac is harvested by cutting the tree branches that hold sticklac. If dye is being produced, the insects are kept in the sticklac because the dye colour comes from the insects rather than their resin. They may be killed by exposure to the sun.
The harvested sticklac is crushed and sieved to remove impurities. The sieved material is then repeatedly washed to remove insect parts and other soluble material.
The use of lac dye goes back to ancient times. It was used in ancient India and neighbouring areas as wood finish, skin cosmetic and dye for wool and silk. In China it is a traditional dye for leather goods.
The pomegranate (Punica granatum) is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree in the family Lythraceae that grows between 5 and 10 m (16 and 33 ft) tall.
The fruit is spherical, up to 12 cm in diameter and has a tough leathery skin. Inside there are many seeds, each surrounded by a ruby-red fleshy pulp. The flesh can be made into juice and the syrup grenadine, whilst the seeds can be ground and made into a spice called anardana. The leftover rind is not wasted but used as a dye. One tree yields about 1 kilo of dried rind a year.
Rheum nobile, the Noble rhubarb or Sikkim rhubarb, is a giant herbaceous plant native to the Himalaya, from northeastern Afghanistan, east through northern Pakistan and India, Nepal, Sikkim (in India), Bhutan, and Tibet to Myanmar, occurring in the alpine zone at 4000–4800 m altitude.
It is an extraordinary species of rhubarb. At 1–2 m tall, Himalayan Rhubarb towers above all the shrubs and low herbs in its habitat, and it is visible across valleys a mile away.
The leaves can be up to 1 metre in diameter, they are used as a lining material and also to cover and protect fruit in baskets. A bright yellow dye is obtained from the root.
Catchu is an extract of acacia trees used variously as a food additive, astringent, tannin, and dye. It is extracted from several species of Acacia, but especially Senegalia catechu (Acacia catechu), by boiling the wood in water and evaporating the resulting brew.
The catechu mixture is high in natural vegetable tannins (which accounts for its astringent effect), and may be used for the tanning of animal hides. .
Under the name cutch, it is a brown dye used for tanning and dyeing and for preserving fishing nets and sails. Cutch will dye wool, silk, and cotton a yellowish-brown. Cutch gives grey-browns with an iron mordant and olive-browns with a copper mordant.
Calendula officinalis, the pot marigold, is probably native to southern Europe, though its long history of cultivation makes its precise origin unknown, and it may possibly be of garden origin. It is also widely naturalised further north in Europe (as far as southern England) and elsewhere in warm temperate regions of the world.
Flowers were used in ancient Greek, Roman, Middle Eastern, and Indian cultures as a medicinal herb, as well as a dye for fabrics, foods, and cosmetics. Many of these uses persist today.
1 kg of marigold petals dries to 165 gm and can dye 165 gm of fabric which is less than 1 dress.