ANST - Organic dye

Mark Harris mark_harris at
Mon Aug 4 22:14:29 PDT 1997

Sir Barn asks:

I am in dire need of help.  I am trying to find an organic red material dye
recipe for some good sturdy Irish linen.  I have had no luck in my sorces up
here.  I fanybody out there has had some success with such a thing please
give me a buzz back.  

The following messages are from an upcoming linen-msg file. It looks like
other folks agree on the difficulty of dyeing linen. Silk on the otherhand
quite easily.

Stefan li Rous

From: Brett and Karen Williams <brettwi at>
Subject: Re: [Q]s about Linen
Date: Mon, 28 Jul 1997 10:48:31 -0700


Linen is well nigh impossible to dye well with natural dyes as the
nature of the bast fiber prevents a good chemical bond between dye and
fiber. Wool has no such problem. Generally speaking, I would tend to
stay away from the colored linens-- however a pastel-ish linen that
looks like the color had faded or washed out from a natural color with
originally more intensity would be acceptable. Perhaps a light intensity
of Saxon green is the green you've described?

(the current issue of Interweave Press' magazine called SpinOff has an
article in it on dyeing Saxon green with woad, with some very good
photos of the color on wool)

From: hrjones at (Heather Rose Jones)
Subject: Re: [Q]s about Linen
Date: 29 Jul 1997 19:46:07 GMT
Organization: University of California, Berkeley


: other is various colors including a nice green, which I understand
: from the archives is a period color... anybody know what other
: colors were period for linen?

Linen did not hold colors fast very well, so "pastel" colors will be the
most authentic approximation of what was available in period from natural
dyes. (Modern synthetic dyes get around the problem -- I've even seen
linen for sale in "international orange" <ugh>.) Part of the well-known
vestments of the Order of the Golden Fleece are lined with a salmon-pink
linen. The Museum of London "Textiles and Clothing" book mentions
inventories of linen sewing thread in a variety of colors (unspecified).
But there is a reason why "white linen" was the standard for underclothes
-- it simply wasn't worthwhile to dye something that wouldn't be seen much
and wouldn't dye well anyway.

I tend to be a bit forgiving in myself (don't anyone faint now!) of using
more brightly colored linens for outer garments when I'm making a
California-weather version of a garment that by rights ought to be made
out of wool.

Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn


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