extract ??

I've consulted my various dye books & notes, surfed around the web, but found no recipe for using extract as opposed to using dyestuff. I have a container of logwood extract & would love to use it. Do I need to soak it in water overnight, with alcohol added (as one recipe has for logwood)? How much extract do I need for WOF?

I have to admit, I had some cochneal extract I tried earlier this summer. Not a success, so now I ask a question or 2.

Joan in Jamestown


Posted on Sun, 09/19/2010 - 23:24

There is a table on this www site of % - http://tablerockllamas.com/instructions.html#1 - I think there are other places that have some of the % as well.  There is a booklet by Michele Wipplinger that also has dye information for extracts -  http://www.earthues.com/.   You didn't say what you were trying to dye so the % may vary if it is cellulose.  You don't need to soak the logwood overnight; just mix it with hot water.  The % is 1.25 - 2%.  Good luck




Posted on Mon, 09/20/2010 - 12:57

Those were very helpful links. I think they answered most questions & I will let you know how things turn out. I'm working with wool yarn this summer.

How do you think extracts compare to using the original dye stuff? While they are pricier, I guess they must be more concentrated & dye more. Quicker to use as well.


Posted on Mon, 09/20/2010 - 15:04

I am actually giving a talk on this topic at the natural dye conference in Taos next week so could be lengthy about it but I'll keep it brief.  I have not seen recent cost studies on extracts but one place that did a comparison found them less expensive than plant/animal material.  If you take into account the time involved in growing .... if that's what you are doing they may be a lot less expensive but you cannot get everything as an extract - the native rabbitbrush around here is a good example.  You do lose the satisfaction of growing your own dye materials.  In some cases the extracts do not give as 'potent' a color as the plant/animal material.  Cochineal, logwood, and walnut are the ones that come to mind.  They are easier to use and you use less heat source as you don't have to extract the dye before dyeing with it.  You can combine them easily to make other colors and you can paint with them which is not as easy to do with raw materials.  And you can get repeatibility as long as it's from the same 'lot' as the dye stuffs do change over time.  I'd be interested to see what other people have to say about it.

I forgot the maiwa's www site in my previous post - they are starting to put up some nice natural dye guides.  I think it's www.maiwa.com.  The other issue relative to extracts that I didn't mention is that there is some concern about the ecological issues related to extracts as far as whether or not the extracts come from endangered species and/or how environmentally friendly the extraction process is.  The reputable extract companies have researched this but it's something to consider. 

Posted on Fri, 09/24/2010 - 13:43

I only know about Michele's and Earthues Extracts, I have no first hand knowledge of others extracts.

  • No endangered or threatened plants or animals are used for the extracts. Most crops are cultivated in a sustainable manner. Trees are the most problematic;  some extracts come from trees cut down for other reasons (Osage orange trees in the Midwest), other come from sustainable forest (Quebracho, Logwood).  Some backyard gathers/dyers don't even know what species of lichen they are gathering let alone if it is endangered. This is not a trivial point, dyers are responsible for the extiction of Murex, the source of Royal Purple.
  • Few good dyestuffs grow in your backyard.  Indigo, the only blue natural dye, can grow in just about anyone's backyard  but you have to plant it.  None of the good reds--madder, cochineal, kermes, lac-- grow in my backyard.
  • So that is 2 out of 3 basic colors that I can't gather here.  So I have to transport the material for the red and blue to my dyepots.  What makes more sense, shipping large volume of raw indigo plants which then have to be composted and extracted to get the indigo or extracting the indigo where it grows and just shipping the cakes of indigo?  Most of us indigo dyers have only worked with the indigo cakes or balls.  The point here is that extracts, such as indigo, have been the norm for hundreds of years and shipping extracts uses less energy.
  • Michele is also concerned for social justice and prefers to obtain her materials from family owned enterprises where the people involved in the labor are also part of the governing and benefiting organization. Growing dyestuffs has long been a source of wealth and exploitation of laborers (see Indigo by Jenny Balfour-Paul)
  • Many of her extracts now have the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) certification and she recieved an award from the UN for sustailability and enviromental soundness.

Dyestuffs vary from harvest to harvest in the concentration of the actual dye; extracts can be measured and standardized. 

Natural dyes have been neglected since the discovery of chemical dyed but that does not mean that historical documents will give you dyeing process that we think are safe today.  Our knowledge of toxicity and environmental hazards has greatly expanded in the last century.  Some good source of up-to date, non-toxic dye process for natural dyes are :

1. Michele Wipplinger's Natual Dye Instruction Book ($21)

2. Natural Dyes: Sources, Tradition, Technology and Science by Dominique Cardon ( over $200)

3. KOEKBOYA Natural Dyes and Textiles A Colour Journey From Turkey to India and Beyond
by Harald Böhmer (over $300)

Natural dyes are hard, each dyes has its quirks and sensitivities.  Madder turns brown if it is heated to over 180°F, cochineal doesn't like hard water.  But you can get beautiful colors with minimal impact for your hard work with natural dyes. Just one example from Ocelot Clothing:


Posted on Mon, 09/27/2010 - 11:50

I checked with table rock llamas, my extract supplier, www.tablerockllamas.com - all of their extracts are either GOTS certified or have an organic certification in the country of origin.  Organic certifications vary but it's nice to see the industry moving in that direction.  Karren - thanks for pictures of your work - it's beautiful. 

Posted on Tue, 09/28/2010 - 19:18

This is a collegue's work,Angelina DeAntonis. She says about 50% of her dyeings are natural dyes. Remember that each dyeing for natual dyes requires a mordant and then a dye bathSince I average about 5 dyeings per scarf, that would double to 10 baths, so  I still work with chemical dyes for my production shibori.  The pieces I make with natural dyes have not been for sale.

Posted on Thu, 09/30/2010 - 14:57

You feel you need to mordant between applications? I haven't read that in dye books, but then I haven't NOT read that. Perhaps its right sometimes: I did have some dyes that didn't overdye so well, but I had others that did. Let me check my notes.


Posted on Fri, 10/01/2010 - 12:47

Yes, you need to mordant before each application of dye color with a few excetions like indigo.  Moradant gets used up, washed off in the process of dyeing.

Posted on Tue, 10/05/2010 - 13:53

I do not do this - just mordant once - as the alum chemically bonds to the fiber and then to the dye there are a limited # of dye sites which once used up are used up.  I do rinse after mordanting to get rid of any loose alum.  I'm not quite sure what alum would be bonding to if you mordanted again - perhaps the previous dye layer.  Also, if you get too much alum on protein it gets sticky.

Posted on Mon, 10/04/2010 - 20:53

Those are good points about too much mordanting. I did some over-dyeing on both commercially dyes rug wool (some colors came out, others ran) and my own dyes (worked better in most instances). Haven't tried doing alum over. Those commercial dyed yarns changed in the alum too.

Posted on Mon, 04/18/2011 - 00:46

Does anyone know if it is possible to paint warps etc.
with natural dyes. I'm not really interested in buying
pricey extracts as I have a lot of natural dyes on hand.
I'm wondering about making a more concentrated stock and
thickening it with sodium alginate. I have not been able to find any information about doing it this way after extensive research. If anyone has tried this I would love to hear about it.


Posted on Mon, 04/18/2011 - 01:11

yes, you just need to wrap it in some plastic wrap and steam it or solar set it for the dye molecules to bond.  

A class will be offered by Diane De Souza at Taos Wool Festival's Earth Palette natural dye conference on painting skeins, which could be applied to warp painting.  Here is that link: 


I took that workshop last year and intend to repeat it to push it in another direction.

Michele Wipplinger of Earthues has a booklet that talks about painting cloth with natural dyes and John Marshall has a booklet on painting fabric using soy milk as a mordant.  

The Earthues website is pretty weak but if you call them you will get lots of info, ask about the natural dye extract booklet, that is the one that has the specific instructions with painting with the natural dye extract which you can apply to natural dye:  http://www.earthues.com/index.html

John is more focused on the traditional Japanese cloth painting so his method for warp painting might not be applicable to your specific question. The issue is getting the soy mordant to cure without creating mold.  It works well on cloth, is a tougher subject with warp skeins.

John Marshall:  http://www.johnmarshall.to/8-01-SOY.html

Good luck, Deb Mc


Posted on Mon, 04/18/2011 - 04:12

Thanks Deb. That workshop sounds great but unfortunately
I live in B.C. so it isn't possible. I will just try
some samples and steam them and see how it goes.

Thanks again

Posted on Mon, 04/18/2011 - 20:49

As always, don't forget to mordant first! You can hang the premordanted skein to dry and paint it damp or dry with your natural dye. Wrap in plastic wrap and steam or solar dry in a black bag to set the dye molecules to the mordant.

Posted on Thu, 04/21/2011 - 22:34

Yes, I do it all of the time.  I'm using extracts but the process would be the same with natural dyes stuffs - make a concentrated solution, mix it with gum trag (sodium alginate curdles some natural dyes stuffs) or if you like the more painterly look, don't thicken it.  Mordant the warp or you can put the mordant in the dye stuff.  It won't be as intense that way but works.  The amount of mordant is open to experimentation if you do it with mixing.  What is more difficult to do with natural dyes stuffs is mix colors - I don't have a good idea about how you might go about that other than painting with one color and then another.  After painting, you need to heat set the warp and then rinse.  I've been letting mine age between the heat setting and the rinsing (dry completely at least) which seems to help with color retention.