Dyeing Process Along with Different Sources of Vegetable Dyes
Subject: Textile | Topics: ,

Introduction of dye:

From the very beginning of the world human being play with colors in different way & the impact of colors in theirs is  feeling  very wide & specific .They feel the use of color whenever they learned the weaving technique & start producing fabric. For ornamentation of fabric they tried to color it to get better feeling. Most probably they get the idea of color in fabric or leather, from the spot or stain of different leaf ,fruit, natural extract. At first they collected dye from flower, leaf, roof of tree, skin of tree & extract of animal &dyed fabric &printed them with the natural available solvent. Then they use natural salt, soda & soap by the help of sunlight & heat during the dyeing process to get permanency of fixing dye in fabric .Color creates an great effect on fabric ,that’s why beauty of a garment is    increase more. So now a day colored fabric is essential part of daily life in each society of the world.

Source of Dye:

Colors are divided into two ways:

1.Natural source.

2.Chemical source or synthetic source.

1.Dye from Natural source:

    a)Vegetable source…………Kutch, Madder, Hena, Indigo etc.

    b)Animal source…………….Cochineal, Scuidse, Lac, Yran purple

    c)Mineral source…………….Prussian blue  , clrone yellow etc.

2.Dye from synthetic source:

   a)Direct dye.                   b)Sulphur dye.

   c)Basic dye.                    d)Mordant dye.

   e)Acid dye.                     f)Vat dye……….. etc

Chemistry of Vegetable Dyes:

The majority of natural dyes need a mordanting chemical (preferably metal salt or suitably coordinating complex forming agents) to create an affinity between thefibre and dye or the pigment molecules of natural colourant. These metallic salts as mordantform metal complexes with the fibres and the dyes. After mordanting, the metal saltsanchoring to the fibres, attracts the dye/organic pigment molecules to be anchored to thefibres and finally creates the bridging link between the dye molecules and the fibre by forming coordinating complexes.

Molecules of silk consist of amino acid units. Proteins are formed from amino acid, which contains free amino and carboxyl groups. Therefore, silk can be considered as amphoteric compounds. During dyeing of the silk, a hydrogen bond occurs between the dyestuff and amino groups.

Mechanism of pre-mordantation and post-mordantation is shown in figure 2.13 and 2.14, respectively.


Figure :Mechanism of Pre-mordantation

Silk ——– Mordent (Men+) ——- Dyestuff

During pre-mordantation the mordant first bonds with amino and carboxyl groups in silk by covalent bonds and co-ordinate bonds and then the mordants bonds with the dyestuff by covalent bonds and co-ordinate bonds. This way the mordant creates a bridge between silk and dyestuff and thus causes fixation of the dyestuff to the silk fibre .

dyr mechanism

Figure : Mechanism of Post-mordantation

Silk —– Dyestuff——– Mordent (Men+)

During post-mordantation the dyestuff first bonds with amino and carboxyl groups in silk by covalent bonds and co-ordinate bonds and then the dyestuff bonds with the mordant by covalent bonds and co-ordinate bonds. Here the mordants do not act as a bridge, instead the mordants block the active sites of the dye molecule so that it cannot react with other chemicals and become detached from the dye .

The mordants form an aggregate by bonding with two or dye molecules, which makes the molecules larger and less soluble when it is bonded with the fibre.

History of dye & dyestuff:

Dye &dye stuff  invented from the very beginning of the civilization. The ancient source of  dye stuff tree & fruit juice. It is known from  Bible that in ancient period most of the dresses & house hold fabric of  rich &  elite people, dyed by the juice of grape. 2000 years before fabric & other materials are dyed by Woad & Indigo trees. 6000 years before Indigo is used in China. Yellow, Red , & Green dyed sample of  leather was found in Egypt 4000 years ago.

Dry Punica granatum is source of yellow color & the root of  Madder tree is used in ancient Greece & Rome for hair dyeing. There was huge cultivation & production  of Indigo in the 16th century, but it was discussed in Sanskrit that in 4000 years before both  the Woad & Indigo were produced & there was a competition both of them in Europe. At last Indigo win in this competition. Very few amount of Pink & Brown , even Red shed is available which was used in cotton & wool, the sheds were collected from root of Rubia tinctorum .

Before the 1856 every dye stuff was produced from the natural source. These dye stuff was very costly & available to rich people. In Renascence period the the dyeing process was regenerated. From the 16th  century the dye stuff from the natural sources are much used  in America & Europe. In

Ancient India the artists are skilled to using mordant.

In 1856 William Henry tried to produced artificial Quinine from the tar.But unfortunately first synthetic dye stuff was invented, and that dye stuff was created the modern dye stuff. Due to low cost , availability, colorfastness, easy dyeing process, durability & different sheds of color the market of  the synthetic dyestuff is expanded.

After the invention  of synthetic dye in the region of British period, they forced to Indian to use the Synthetic dye & the expansion was permanent for 200 years. That’s why  the production & uses of vegetable dye faced a great threat& vegetable dyes are about eliminate .

Demerits of synthetic dye:

The main problem of synthetic dye is pollution of environment. The chemical with the dye stuff are harmful. The problems are given below:

  • Destroy the fertility of soil .
  • The chemical of synthetic dye polluted the water so it is harmful for fish &water.
  • Synthetic dye is not bio- degradable, so its harmful for soil & environment.
  • The wastage of chemical of dye stuff create a barrier to drainage system.
  • In dyeing industry it creates different physical problem to worker, such as, different  skin diseases  & others problems.
  • Few of synthetic dye is the main reason of cancer because of the presence of carcinogen in synthetic dye.

Reason behind the back to the vegetable dye:

The demand of vegetable dye is increasing for the harmful reason of synthetic dye stuff.

Vegetable dye is the only echo-friendly dye in the world. The culture of dyeing with vegetable is started from 1981 in Bangladesh. The “Vegetable dyeing society” found a great potentiality through collecting vegetable dye stuff & research with them. BISIC started research on vegetable dye in 1982.

All ingredients of vegetable dye are available in Bangladesh. Few of ingredients are imported from abroad. Now a days some of boutique shop are established, who are involved with the vegetable dyeing on fabric, not only dyeing but also printing.

Different sources of vegetable dyes 

Acacia catechu:

Local name:Kutch,Khayer

Used part for dyeing : Extract of the heartwood  A. catechu.

Achieved color:  Deep brown.

Cultivation area

Natural range is in an arc across southern Himalayas from Pakistan, through Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar to Thailand and, possibly, extending into China, Indonesia.

Climate and Soil Requirements

A. catechu is found in moderate rainfall areas over its natural range from the Southern Himalayas down to northern Thailand. It has not proven suitable for the most dry or heavy rainfall areas in India. The altitude limit in the Himalayas is around 1,200 m. It is adaptable to a wide range of well-drained soils, even poor stony types which are unsuitable for many other trees.

Production Systems

The tree is grown on large plantations and in smaller, communal lots (in which it is exploited for fuel wood and village-scale processing purposes).


Seeds are employed for propagation and germination is reported as improved by hot-water pre-treatment. Seedlings are raised in nurseries for about six months prior to field planting (at spacings of 2 m x 4 m or greater).

 Description and Dyestuff Uses

Cutch” is the purified aqueous extract of the heartwood of the multipurpose tree, Acacia catechu Wild. This deciduous, thorny species grows up to 15 m high and is indigenous to the southern range of the Himalayas (extending in India as far south as Andhra Pradesh and Orissa), Myanmar and northern Thailand.

Processing involves three stages: production of a crude extract “black catechu”; isolation of “katha” and solidification of the residue, “cutch”.

“Black catechu” has been traditionally employed in the producer countries for crude dyeing, leather tanning and in indigenous medicines.

The further processed “cutch” is employed as a cheap brown dye and preservative for canvas, fishing nets and similar items and also as a tanning agent for leather, particularly in India. In more recent times, cutch has found use as a viscosity modifier in oil well drilling. It is composed mainly of catechu-tannic acid with catechin, catechu red, quercetin and a gum as minor components.

“Katha” is a brown semi-crystalline substance which contains catechin and its isomers. It is used as an ingredient of “pan” and “pan marsala” chewing confectionery in India.

Artocarpus integrifolia:

Local name:Jack Fruit

Used part for dyeing: Wood powder  of  Artocarpus integrifolia

Achieved color:  Light yellow

Mostly cultivated in Bangladesh, A native of the mountainous regions of India and Malaya, but now widely-cultivated in tropical regions, around the world. The ripe fruit are very large, weighing up to 23 kilos, and growing to around a meter. They have rough skin, with hard, pointed, studs all over their surface. Their flesh is soft and juicy and contains large white seeds. Jack Fruit can be eaten raw, or cooked in oil, as an accompaniment to curry. The seeds can be roasted in the style of chestnuts.

Bixa orellana:

Local name: Lotcon.

Used part for dyeing: Seed of  Bixa orellana.

Achieved color:  Orange.

chiote (Bixa orellana) is a shrub or small tree originating from the tropical region of the Americas. The name derives from the Nahuatl word for the shrub, āchiotl. It is also known as Aploppas, and its original Tupi name urucu. It is cultivated there and in Southeast Asia, where it was introduced by the Spanish in the 17th century. It is best known as the source of the natural pigment annatto, produced from the fruit. The plant bears pink flowers and bright red spiny fruits which contain red seeds. The fruits dry and harden to brown capsules.

It is of particular commercial value in the United States because the Food and Drug Administration considers annatto colorants made from it to be “exempt of certification”. It is used as a colorant and condiment for traditional dishes such as cochinita pibil, rice, chicken in achiote and caldo de olla. It is also used to add color to butter, cheese, popcorn, drinks, and breads. The main achiote growers are Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic.

Cultivation: In rainy season seeds are sown. warm & moisture weather is suitable for  lotkon .So in our Bangladesh  it is very easy to cultivate Bixa orellana.

Punica granatum:

Local name: Dalim.

Used part for dyeing: skin of the fruit.

Achieved color:  Blackish brown/Beige .

Punica granatum are fairly drought tolerant and can be grown on either calcareous or acid soils. Climate – Grow best in dry climates with mild winters. Chilling requirement – Unclear; can be grown in tropical climates without chilling.

Propagation :Pomegranate seeds germinate readily even when merely thrown onto the surface of loose soil and the seedlings spring up with vigor. However, to avoid seedling variation, selected cultivars are usually reproduced by means of hardwood cuttings 25-50 cm long. Treatment. indole-butyric acid and planting at a moisture level of 15.95% greatly enhances root development and survival. The cuttings are set in beds with 1 or 2 buds above the soil for 1 year, and then transplanted to the field. Grafting has never been successful but branches may be air-layered and suckers from a parent plant can be taken up and transplanted.

Culture: Rooted cuttings or seedlings are set out in pre-fertilized pits (60 cm) deep and wide and are spaced 3.5-5.5 m apart, depending on the fertility of the soil. Initially, the plants are cut back to 60-75 cm in height and after they branch out the lower branches are pruned to provide a clear main stem. Inasmuch as fruits are borne only at the tips of new growth, it is recommended that, for the first 3 years, the branches be judiciously shortened annually to encourage the maximum number of new shoots on all sides, prevent straggly development, and achieve a strong, well-framed plant. After the 3rd year, only suckers and dead branches are removed. For good fruit production, the plant must be irrigated.

Diospyros peregrina:

Local name: Gub

Used part for dyeing:  Fruit.

Achieved color:   Pink

Cultivation:   Persimmons are the edible fruit of a number of species of trees in the genus Diospyros. Diospyros is in the family Ebenaceae, and certain species of Diospyros are the sources of most kinds of ebony wood, and not all species bear edible fruit. In color the ripe fruit of the cultivated strains range from light yellow-orange to dark red-orange depending on the species and variety. They similarly vary in size from 1.5 to 9 cm (0.5 to 4 in) in diameter, and in shape the varieties may be spherical, acorn-, or pumpkin-shaped. The calyx generally remains attached to the fruit after harvesting, but becomes   easy to remove once the fruit is ripe. The ripe fruit have a high glucose content.

 It is a dioecious tropical tree that grows well in in a diversity of soil, from the sea level to the 2,400 feet above sea level. Seed trees are normally planted 30 or 45 feet from each other; this one can be planted from 25 to 30 feet from each other. It needs a good distribution of rainfall through the year. Trees that were planted by seeds could take 6 or 7 years to give out fruit, but trees that were propagated by cuttings produce fruit in 3 or 4 years. It is a very productive tree.

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis:

Local name: Jasmine

Used part for dyeing:  Patel & the corola tube of bright orange color.

Achieved color: Yellow, Light orange, Golden.

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis has many popular names – Night Jasmine, Coral Jasmine, Sad Tree, Parijat and Lover’s Tree. The plant justifies all of these pretty names. Legend has it Parijataka who was a beautiful princess fell in love with the sun but the sun deserted her. The mournful princess committed suicide. From ashes of the sad princess sprung a beautiful tree. Unable to stand the sight of the lover who left her, the tree blooms only at night and sheds its flowers before the sun rises.

Culivation: The plant growing in my garden is now 5 years old and these days it is blooming profusely. Every day, I see a carpet of white flowers under the ‘sad’ plant. Anyway, Nyctanthes arbor-tristis is a nice plant to grow in the garden. It is not fussy about soil or water. In fact, it is quite hardy and prefers a little neglect.

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis grows as a shrub and grows in to a small tree (up to 5 meters). The coarse leaves cover straggling branches and make it a good foliage plant for filling in empty spaces in the garden. Small flowers of white color with orange center appear in summer. These scented flowers are rather short lived – they bloom at night and drop before rising of the sun.

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis grows natively in tropical climate of Pakistan and spreads across tropical regions of India, Bengladesh, Nepal and Thailand.

Besides its ornamental value, Nyctanthes arbor-tristis has various medicinal uses. The leaves are antibacterial and are used for the treatment of fungal infection, cough, and snakebite. Flowers are source of a yellow dye which is used to color clothes.  The lovely flowers of Nyctanthes arbor-tristis are also used in Hindu rituals and for preparing garlands that is why it is the plant is also known as Haar Singhar (beautification or make up).

Tagetes erecta: 

Local name: Merrygold.

Used part for dyeing: Patel.

Achieved color: Golden 

Propagation  Seed needs to be sown indoors but plants can be grown outside during the summer, where they will flower until the frosts. Minimum temperature 10°C From seed. They are easy to sow in a tray or pot. Seeds should be set about 2cm apart. Germination is rapid at 19°C.

Cultivation: Keep seedlings warm, and move onto larger pots when they have four to six true leaves. Harden off and plant out in a sunny position when the weather is warm enough, at about 8cm apart. Tagetes minuta will need a stake to support it. Water well until established.

Remove spent flowers as they die off, water in dry weather and feed with a high potash fertilizer occasionally to prolong the flowering period.

In India African marigolds are often grown as standards. To do this, rub the side shoots off a marigold plant and tie the bare stem to a stick so it keeps growing upwards.

When it is about 45cm tall, allow the top to bush out, and develop normally but keep rubbing off any side shoots from the stem

Acacia Arabica:

Local name: Babla

Used part for dyeing:

Achieved color: Brown.

Cultivation :The tree can be propagated by planting its seeds, which are soaked in hot water first. After about six months in a nursery, the seedlings can be planted in the field

Terminalia chebula:

Local name: Hartoky

Used part for dyeing: Fruit

Achieved color: Ash /golden. 


This tree yields smallish, ribbed and nut-like fruits which are picked when still green and then pickled, boiled with a little added sugar in their own syrup or used in preserves; this preserve is called ‘Hareer Ka Murabba in Urdu language. The seed of the fruit, which has an elliptical shape, is an abrasive seed enveloped by a fleshy and firm pulp. It is regarded as a universal panacea in the Ayur-Vedic Medicine and in the Traditional Tibetan medicine. It is reputed to cure blindness and it is believed to inhibit the growth of malignant tumours.

The dry nut’s peel is used to cure cold-related nagging coughs. The bark/peel of the nut is placed in the cheek. Although the material does not dissolve, the resulting saliva, bitter in taste, is believed to have medicinal qualities to cure cold related coughs. Its fruit has digestive, anti-inflammatory, anthelmentic, cardiotonic, aphrodisiac and restorative properties and is additionally beneficial in flatulence, constipation, piles, cough and colds.

T. chebula contains terflavin B, a type of tannin while chebulinic acid is found in the fruits. 

Rubia cardifolia:

Local name: Common Madder

Used part for dyeing: Root, Steam.

Achieved color: Red.

Cultivation :

It can grow to 1.5 m in height. The evergreen leaves are 5–10 cm long and 2–3 cm broad, produced in whorls of 4-7 starlike around the central stem. It climbs with tiny hooks at the leaves and stems. The flowers are small (3–5 mm across), with five pale yellow petals, in dense racemes, and appear from June to August, followed by small (4–6 mm diameter) red to black berries. The roots can be over 1 m long, up to 12 mm thick. It prefers loamy soils with a constant level of moisture. Madders are used as food plants for the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Hummingbird hawk moth.

Indigofera tinctoria: 

Local name: Nil

Used part for dyeing: The extract of leaf.

Achieved color: Blue.


Indigo plants originate from different parts of the world. Indigofera arrecta from east and southern Africa, and I. suffruticosa from tropical America. I. tinctoria was probably native to Asia, but it has been widely distributed and is now naturalised all over the tropics. The species cultivated for commerce is mainly I. tinctoria.

History :  The cultivation of indigo on a large scale started in the 16th century in India and this was documented by European visitors in the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly in the north of India.

The British established commercial cultivation and production of indigo. Initial plantations began in 1777, and by 1788 most of the production of indigo purchased by the East India Company originated from Bengal. The system became deeply exploitative from 1837 when ‘planters’ were accorded permission to own land.

Vast quantities of indigo were concentrated around Bengal, paticularly in the district of Champaran which is now in Bihar. This area was the focal point for processing and trade. As a dye it replaced American supplies which had been disrupted during the American Revolution. It was in great demand to supply the textile industries of the Industrial Revolution and was used to dye European military uniforms.

The East India Company imported massive volumes of Indian indigo in the mid 1600s. Its use in Europe was clearly a threat to native woad growers. Protests led to the ban of indigo in Britain and other European countries. Despite this, European woad plantations and factories rapidly disappeared.

The chemical process of indigo dyeing was only unravelled in the 1870s, opening the way for chemical substitutes. This was catastrophic to the Indian indigo economy and it had a profound effect on the movement for independencein India. By 1914 only 4% of the total world production came from plants.

Areca catechu: 

Local name: areca nut palm,

Used part for dyeing: Nut

Achieved color: Dark pink.

Areca catechu is the areca palm or areca nut palm, (Filipino: bunga, Malay: pinang, Malayalam: അടക്ക adakka), a species of palm which grows in much of the tropical Pacific, Asia, and parts of east Africa. The palm is believed to have originated in either Malaysia or the Philippines.[2] Areca is derived from a local name from the Malabar Coast of India and catechu is from another Malay name for this palm, caccu.

This palm is often erroneously called the betel tree because its fruit, the areca nut, is often chewed along with the betel leaf, a leaf from a vine of the Piperaceae family.

Cultivation  It is a medium-sized and graceful palm tree, growing straight to 20 m tall, with a trunk 10–15 cm in diameter. The leaves are 1.5–2 m long, pinnate, with numerous, crowded leaflets. It is also known as puga in Sanskrit and supari in Marathi and Gujarati.

Allium cepa:

Local name: bulb onion

 Used part for dyeing: Skin.

Achieved color: Dark golden.

The onion (Allium cepa), which is also known as the bulb onion, common onion is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium. The genus Allium also contains a number of other species variously referred to as onions and cultivated for food, such as the Japanese bunching onion (A. fistulosum), Egyptian onion (A. ×proliferum), and Canada onion (A. canadense).[2] The name “wild onion” is applied to a number of Allium species. Onion is most frequently a biennial, although it can also be a triennial or a perennial.


Onions may be grown from seed or, more commonly today, from sets started from seed the previous year. Onion seeds are notoriously short lived.,,Onion sets are produced by sowing seed very thickly one year, resulting in stunted plants that produce very small bulbs. These bulbs are very easy to set out and grow into mature bulbs the following year, but they have the reputation of producing a less durable bulb than onions grown directly from seed and thinned.

Seed-bearing onions are day-length sensitive; their bulbs begin growing only after the number of daylight hours has surpassed some minimal quantity. Most traditional European onions are what is referred to as “long-day” onions, producing bulbs only after 15+ hours of daylight occurs. Southern European and North African varieties are often known as “intermediate day” types, requiring only 12–13 hours of daylight to stimulate bulb formation. Finally, “short-day” onions, which have been developed in more recent times, are planted in mild-winter areas in the fall and form bulbs in the early spring, and require only 9–10 hours of sunlight to stimulate bulb formation.

Either planting method may be used to produce spring onions or green onions, which are the leaves of immature plants. Green onion is a name also used to refer to another species, Allium fistulosum, the Welsh onion, which does not form bulbs.

Onions are a cool-weather plant; hot temperatures cause them to “bolt” (meaning that the stem quickly grows and begins flowering). Since they take up to 120 days to maturity, seeds will often have to be started indoors. The seedlings or bulbs are planted outside as soon as the soil is workable (i.e. not frozen or soggy) and harvested in early summer. Snowfalls in March or April are often known as “onion snows” because they fall on freshly planted onions.

All members of the Allium family are prone to the deadly disease of white rot mildew (typically spread through infected garlic cloves), which can linger in soil for many years and destroys the plants.

The tree onion produces bulblets instead of flowers and seeds, which can be planted directly in the ground.

I’itoi onion (Allium cepa) is a prolific multiplier onion cultivated near Baboquiviri, Arizona. They have a shallot-like flavour. They are easy to grow and ideal for hot, dry climates. To grow them, bulbs are separated, and planted in the fall 1 inch below surface and 12 inches apart. Bulbs will multiply into clumps and can be harvested throughout the cooler months. Tops will die back in the heat of summer and may return with monsoon rains; bulbs can remain in the ground or be harvested and stored in a cool dry place for planting in the fall. The plants rarely flower; propagation is by division.

Caesalpinia pulcherrina:

Local name: Golmohor.

 Used part for dyeing: Patel

Achieved color: Light green.

Caesalpinia pulcherrima is a species of ering plant in the pea family, Fabaceae, that is native to the tropics and subtropics of the Americas. Its exact origin is unknown due to widespread cultivation. Common names for this species include Poinciana, Peacock Flower, Red Bird of Paradise, Mexican Bird of Paradise, Dwarf Poinciana, Pride of Barbados, and flamboyan-de-jardin.It belongs to the plant family Leguminosae and is native to West Indies.

Description: It is a shrub growing to 3 m tall. The leaves are bipinnate, 20–40 cm long, bearing 3-10 pairs of pinnae, each with 6-10 pairs of leaflets 15–25 mm long and 10–15 mm broad. The flowers are borne in racemes up to 20 cm long, each flower with five yellow, orange or red petals. The fruit is a pod 6–12 cm long.

Dalia indica:

Local name: Dahlia

 Used part for dyeing: Patel

Achieved color: Golden with orange.

Dahlia (Winter flower – Rooted cuttings .Dahlias are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Angle Shades, Common Swift, Ghost Moth and Large Yellow Under wing.

The dahlia is named after Swedish 18th-century botanist Anders Dahl [4]. In German the dahlia was known during most of the 19th century as Georgia, being named after the naturalist Johann Gottlieb Georgi of St. Petersburg, Russia

Light: Dahlias need full sun and should not be grown where they will be shaded by taller shrubs, walls or trees

Moisture: Dahlias require a lot of water, but still need a well drained soil. The soil should be rich in organics and rotted manure.

Hardiness: USDA Zones 8-10. Dahlias do best in a cool, moist climate. They are grown in areas that receive hard frosts, but the tubers must be dug in autumn (right after the first frost), dried upside down, treated with fungicide, and stored over winter. In USDA zone 8, tubers should be mulched for winter protection. In warmer climates the tubers can be left in the ground, but will probably do better if lifted and stored in a dry place over the winter.
Propagation: Dahlias are propagated from tubers which are divided in spring, before planting out, or from basal shoot cuttings which are produced in late winter in the greenhouse. Bedding dahlias are grown from seed.

Ocimum sanctum:

Local name: Tulshi

 Used part for dyeing: Leaf.

Achieved color: Yellowish green.


Ocimum sanctum commonly known as holy basil is a herbaceous sacred plant found through outBangladesh. Different parts of plant like stem, flower, seed, leaves, root etc are known to possess therapeutic potential and have been used, by traditional medicinal practitioners, as expectorant, analgesic, anticancer, antiasthamatic, antiemetic, diaphoretic, antidiabetic, antifertility, hepatoprotective, hypotensive and antistress agent. Tulsi has also been used in treatment of fever, bronchitis, arthritis, convulsion etc.

Ocimum sanctum, or holy basil, is an aromatic plant that is native to the tropics of Asia and Africa, and is widespread as a cultivated plant and weed. It is a small shrub with many branches and strongly scented green leaves. The leaves are ovate and slightly toothed.  The flowers are purplish to white.  

Lawsonia inermis:

Local name: Hena.

 Used part for dyeing: Leaf.

Achieved color: Golden. 

Henna (Lawsonia inermis, also called henna tree is a flowering plant used since antiquity to dye skin, hair, fingernails, leather and wool. The name is also used for dye preparations derived from the plant, and for the art of temporary tattooing based on those dyes. Additionally, the name is misused for other skin and hair dyes, such as black henna or neutral henna, which are not derived from the plant.

Description:Henna is a tall shrub or small tree, 2.6 m high. It is glabrous, multibranched with spine tipped branchlets. Leaves are opposite, entire, glabrous, sub-sessile, elliptical, and broadly lanceolate (1.5–5.0 cm x 0.5–2 cm), acuminate, having depressed veins on the dorsal surface. Henna flowers have four sepals and a 2 mm calyx tube with 3 mm spread lobes. Petals are obvate, white or red stamens inserted in pairs on the rim of the calyx tube. Ovary is four celled, style up to 5 mm long and erect. Fruits are small, brownish capsules, 4–8 mm in diameter, with 32–49 seeds per fruit, and open irregularly into four splits.

Cultivation:The henna plant is native to tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, southern Asia, and northern Australasia in semi-arid zones. Henna’s indigenous zone is the tropical savannah and tropical arid zone, in latitudes between 15° and 25° N and S from Africa to the western Pacific rim, and produces highest dye content in temperatures between 35 °C and 45 °C. During the onset of precipitation intervals, the plant grows rapidly; putting out new shoots, then growth slows. The leaves gradually yellow and fall during prolonged dry or cool intervals. It does not thrive where minimum temperatures are below 11 °C. Temperatures below 5 °C will kill the henna plant. Henna is commercially cultivated in Morocco, Algeria, Yemen, Tunisia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, India, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Turkey, Somalia and Sudan. Presently the Pali district of Rajasthan is the most heavily cultivated henna production area in India, with over 100 henna processors operating in Sojat City.

Camellia sinensis:

Local name: Tea.

 Used part for dyeing: Leaf.

Achieved color:  Light Brown.

Camellia sinensis is the species of plant whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce the popular beverage tea. It is of the genus Camellia,a genus of flowering plants in the family Theaceae. White tea, green tea, oolong, pu-erh tea and black tea are all harvested from this species, but are processed differently to attain different levels of oxidation. Kukicha (twig tea) is also harvested from Camellia sinensis, but uses twigs and stems rather than leaves. Common names include tea plant, tea shrub, and tea tree (not to be confused with Melaleuca alternifolia, the source of tea tree oil).

There are two major varieties used for tea, Chinese tea, Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, and Assam tea, Camellia sinensis var. assamica.

Description:Camellia sinensis is native to East, South and Southeast Asia, but it is today cultivated across the world in tropical and subtropical regions. It is an evergreen shrub or small tree that is usually trimmed to below 2 m (6.6 ft) when cultivated for its leaves. It has a strong taproot. The flowers are yellow-white, 2.5–4 cm (0.98–1.6 in) in diameter, with 7 to 8 petals.

The seeds of Camellia sinensis and Camellia oleifera can be pressed to yield tea oil, a sweetish seasoning and cooking oil that should not be confused with tea tree oil, an essential oil that is used for medical and cosmetic purposes, and originates from the leaves of a different plant.

Camellia sinensis plant, with cross-section of the flower (lower left) and seeds (lower right).

The leaves are 4–15 cm (1.6–5.9 in) long and 2–5 cm (0.79–2.0 in) broad. Fresh leaves contain about 4% caffeine. The young, light green leaves are preferably harvested for tea production; they have short white hairs on the underside. Older leaves are deeper green. Different leaf ages produce differing tea qualities, since their chemical compositions are different. Usually, the tip (bud) and the first two to three leaves are harvested for processing. This hand picking is repeated every one to two weeks.

Cultivation:Camellia sinensis is mainly cultivated in tropical and subtropical climates, in areas with at least 127 cm. (50 inches) of rainfall a year. However, the clonal one is commercially cultivated from the equator to as far north as Cornwall on the UK mainland. Many high quality teas are grown at high elevations, up to 1500 meters (5,000 ft), as the plants grow more slowly and acquire more flavour.

Tea plants will grow into a tree if left undisturbed, but cultivated plants are pruned to waist height for ease of plucking. Two principal varieties are used, the small-leaved Chinese variety plant (C. sinensis sinensis) and the large-leaved Assamese plant (C. sinensis assamica), used mainly for black tea.


Local name:Guava.

Used part for dyeing: Leaf.

Achieved color:Bluish ash..

Guava (Psidiumguajava) is a low evergreen tree or shrub 6 to 25 feet high, with wide-spreading branches and square, downy twigs, is a native of tropical America. Guava is a tropical and semitropical plant. It is well known for its edible fruit . shows guava fruit and it’s leaves.

The leaves of Guava contain many essential oils and so it is used for many purposes like producing anti-microbial finishes, providing anti-diarrheal action, having anti-inflammatory effect, etc. The leaves can also be used for dyeing textiles. Quercetinpresent in the guava leaves is the chemical that is responsible for having the colouring effect on textile material. The chemical structure of Quercetin is given in figure


Figure :Quercetin


Local name:Mango.

 Used part for dyeing: Leaf.

Achieved color:  Light yellowish grey.

Mango (Mangiferaindica), also known as amm,is one of the most popular of all tropical fruits. Mangoes belong to genus Mangifera,which consists of about 30 species of tropical fruiting trees in the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae. It is native tropical Asian fruit and has been cultivated in the Indian subcontinent for over 4000 years and is now found naturalized in most tropical countries.

The chemical that is responsible for colour in the mango leaf is mangifera.

Dyeing process of vegetable dye stuff:


Dyeing is the process of coloring textile materials by immersing them in an aqueous solution of dye, called dye liquor. Normally the dye liquor consists of dyes, water and auxiliary .Dyeing is commonly carried out with a dye by completely immersing the fabric (yarn) in an aqueous dye bath according to a prescribed procedure. There are different types of dyes which are used according to type of fabric (fibre) and fastness required. Direct, reactive, sulfur, vat and vegetables (natural dye) dyes are normally used on cellulose fibre where acid and basic dyes are used on protein fibres. Some dyes are used particularly for specific type of fibre like disperse dye for polyester. For improved fastness to washing, rubbing and light dyes such as vat and reactive are commonly used.

Dyeing can be carried out either in batches or continuously. In a batch operation, as in the case of  winch  or jet dyeing, preparation of a dye solution, application of dye to the fabrics and washing of dyed fabrics are performed in a single vessel in a sequential manner and do not interfere with one another. Continuous dyeing, integrates the above steps into a line of operations and the fabric being dyed is continuously fed. After the dyeing the fabric is rinsed to remove unfixed dyes and dried to prepare for finishing.

In the early years an unlimited of colors were developed from a wide variety of dye sources; later on these were standardized into thirty colorfast dyes based on cost and ready availability of dyestuffs. Expensive raw materials were replaced by less costly alternatives and easily accessible sources used in lieu of the less common or seasonal ones. Dyes from barks were eliminated altogether due to their long term negative impact on trees; instead similar shades were developed from wood shavings, sawdust and other sources. Extensive experiments have also been conducted over the years to reduce labour and fuel costs and simplify procedures making natural dye products more cost effective.  Earlier all materials were treated in an alum solution prior to dyeing to enhance the brightness of the colours.

Categories and examples of natural dyes plants:

1.Leaf/Petal: Eucalyptus,henna,tea,marigold,dahia and gulmohor.

2.Skin/Root:  Onion, pomegranate,walnut,madder,turmeric and alkanet.

3.Fruit/Seed: Betenut,Myrabalan,wild mangosteen and annatto.

4.Wood shavings/Sawdust: Rain tree, jack wood, mangrove, arjun and gorjon.

5.Extract: Indigo and catechu.

The process for mandating extracting and dyeing is the same for the first four categories except madder. Along with the fifth category of extracts indigo and catechu, madder has a completely different dyeing process. All calculations measurements for natural dyes are based on weight of yarn or fabric to be dyed. Mordants , dyes and water are required in specific proportion to the weight of the material. For example to be dye 100 gm of yarn brown one would require a 5% copper sulphate mordant and 20 % of catechu. The ratio of water always has to be 1:20 to enable easy movement of fabric in the solution.

It is important to follow each stage of the dyeing process with care:

  1. Weighting of yarn /yarn.
  2. Calculations of washing, mordanting and dyeing raw materials.
  3. Pretreatment (Scouring and bleaching)
  4. Mordanting
  5.  Dye extracting and dyeing
  6. Soaping(Post-dye washing)


In the preparation section, grey fabrics are pre-treated to remove impurities and colour in order to make them suitable for dyeing and finishing. Many of the natural and synthetic contaminants are hydrophobic and hinder wetting of the fibres. The objective of the preparation is to remove the bulk of these impurities so that the cotton readily and uniformly absorbs the aqueous solutions used in dyeing and finishing .The grey fabrics are scoured in a caustic solution to remove natural fats, waxes, proteins and other constituents, as well as dirt, oil, and other impurities. Then they are washed with water and treated with a weak acid solution to neutralize the alkali. The scoured goods are bleached with a bleaching agent to improve the whiteness of the goods by removing the natural colouring substances. For the production of high quality white fabrics or production of dyed in pale or medium and bright shades bleaching is essential. It is not necessary for dull or dark shades provided the fabric is already of adequate and uniform absorbency. The types of chemicals used include hypochlorite, chlorites and hydrogen peroxide. Cotton and cotton/ polyester materials are bleached with an alkaline solution of hydrogen peroxide. This usually involves impregnation of the goods with stabilized alkaline solution of hydrogen peroxide followed by steaming. The goods are finally well washed in hot water and then treated with dilute acetic acid solution to neutralization of residual NaOH and washed again in cold water to prepare for dyeing.

Pretreatment /washing recipe:

The material has to be cleansed thoroughly of starch and other impurities. Boil cotton for minutes in a solution of:

4% Liquid soap.

8% Soda ash

2% caustic soda

After this fabric is washed with clean water. Soak in a 3% bleaching powder solution for 5-10 minutes. Give a final wash in cold water to remove bleaching powder properly.


Mordanting is a process whereby natural or chemical compounds are used to make the dyes colorfast. Chemical mordants are metallic salts. The extraordinary quality of mordants is that apart from making the dyes colorfast ,they yield several shades from  the same dye , difference in proportion of mordants  create further tonal variations which have universal appeal.In earlier times dyers used mordants from mineral sources such as alum,copper,lime and tin. There is no denying the wisdom of using natural mordants. However at present natural mordants are not easily accessible for commercial production where volume and uniformity of color are crucial factors.

There are different methods of mordanting the most common ones being premordanting and post mordanting. In these instances yarn/fabric is mordanted before or after dyeing.

The following proportion of mordant yield vibrant colors depending on the depth of shades required.

1.Alum      10-20%

2. Copper sulphate  3-5%

3. Potassium dichromate 1% or less

4. Ferrous Sulphate      2-4%


Alum is translucent crystalline water-soluble element, which has a pH of 3.2. It is also known as Aluminum potassium sulphate. Alum attracts moisture and is used in textile processing as a dye fixative. A pinch of alum makes colour flow but if too much is used it will make the fibre harsh and sticky. Alum is best suited to be used on wool and silk fibre. It is not considered toxic and is also sometimes used it in foods.


Figure : Alum

Iron (Ferrous Sulphate)

Ferrous sulphate is gray-white to greenish crystalline powder that turns brown when exposed to air. When used as a dye mordant, iron darkens the dye colour. For this reason iron is also called the ‘greying’ mordant. When too much iron is used it causes harsh and spotty fibre. This mordant is best suited for cellulosic fibre and silk. Iron is considered toxic only when it is ingested in large amounts [21].


Figure : Ferrous Sulphate

Dye extraction and dyeing:

Grind or pulverize dyestuff except leaves and petals and use 25-50%, depending on the depth of color required. In the case of waste materials like onion skin and leaves, proportion can be increased to 100% for deeper shades. Boil dyestuff for 30 minutes or so on.

Post dye washing: It is very important to wash out excess dye to ensure that the colors do not bleed and ruin the fabric later. Dyed material should be washed thoroughly with liquid soap and cold water.

Dry in shade:

Special dyeing techniques for madder, indigo and catechu are given bellow:


Of all the dyes extracted from natural sources madder and indigo require the greatest skill and expertise to ensure even, vibrant coloring. However their magical beauty and quality more than reward the efforts invested in them. Madder requires two stages of mordanting. In the first instance boil a solution of 50% Myrabalan ( Terminalia chebula) and 50% of unripe Myrabalan for 30 minutes.Strain ,soak and knead the material very well in the solution ,ensuring an even spread. Dry in the sun for 2-3days. Melt a 20% alum solution in boiling water and repeat the process of soaking the material thoroughly in it. Dry in the sun for another day or two.

Grind madder and boil a 50% madder solution for 30 minutes. Strain well. Insert mordanted material in the dye solution continuously for even dyeing.


The first step of working with indigo is the creation of a stable vat. Over a ling period of trial and error a simplified indigo vat has developed which works very well. The vat can be created by soaking 200-500 gm of powdered indigo for 3-5 days in 3 litres of water. The primary vat can be topped up from time to time by adding 100 gm of pre-soaked indigo and used over months. When ready to dye, weigh the material and add water to the ratio 20:1 Stir in 5%   Caustic soda and then add 10% Hydros (sodium hydrosulphide). Stir vigorously, until the solution foams and green.

Catechu:Dissolve 3-5% Copper sulphate in hot water, add 30% catechu powder and boil

  •  for 30 minutes. Strain and dye material in hot solution till a rich brown color  .
  •  is achieved.  If at this stage it is treated in a warm solution of 5% soda ash the
  •  color will turn a deep shade of pink.

Combination Color: Olive Green:

There is unlimited scope for combining two or three colours to create news shades. Olive green, from a combination of myrabalan, pomegranate and turmeric is one such example.

The material has to be mordanted in alum and dyed in a solution  of 50% myrabalan and 50% pomegranate, which gives a bright yellow shade. For olive green, the yellow material has to be developed in a warm solution of 2% ferrous sulphate, by working in thoroughly, till the colour turns olive ( 15 minutes or so) .

Dye extraction and Printing:

Block printing:

Madder Red print

Printing paste:

Alum                                –    80gm

Tamarind seed Powder –    50 gm

Water                               –    1 litre

Boil alum and make tamarind seed powder in water till fully dissolved and make into smooth paste . Since the paste is colourless a little non – fast dye may be added for visibility. Block print with paste, matching design carefully. Dry the samples in open air for 4-5 daysa. Wash in cold water and dry the fabric properly.

After this develop the printed fabric in following solution:

Maddler powder  ………….. 50 gm

Daiflower( Wood fordia fruticosa)…….. 20 gm


Boil madder and dayflower for 30 minutes and sieve. Insert printed fabric in solution and boil on the stove for 30 minutes, stirring continuously foe even development of print. After this remove and wash well in cold water.

Indigo Blue print:

Indigo……………………… 100gm

Gum Arabica  ……………..100gm

Hydros ……………………15 gm

Caustic soda ………………… 10 gm

Water  ……………… 1 litre

Mordant the fabric with 20% alum and 50% daiflower. Melt alum and soak the fabric for 15-20 minutes. Boil daiflower  for 30 minutes and strain and mix fabric in solution thoroughly. After this dry the fabric for a day or two.

Wax Printing

Wax block printing is a technique developed several years ago, to expand the range of colours on natural dye printing fabrics and dyed.

Wax Printing Paste

Beeswax                                                                      – 500 gm

Paraffin                                                                       – 500 gm

Resin                                                                           – 100 gm

Powder the resin and boil with the wax and paraffin till all the ingredients have dissolved and mixed well. Filter the hot liquid with muslim to remove dust particles etc. Wax is kept on an even heat to allow clear printing. Once the wax has cooled the fabric is mordanated and dyed, following the normal dyeing process but working only with tepid dye solutions so that the wax patterns do not melt. Exclude alum based dyes from wax printing as the wax is difficult to remove. Dry dyed fabric for 24 hours for the colour to set.

Tie & Dye

The scope for design and colour is quite limitless in tie-dye, whether one follows the Shibori and Bandhini techniques or the dramatic, bold patterns developed over the years. The beauty of this technique depends on the intricacy of the tying- the folding and tying, the refolding and the retying, again, using different colours each time. Tying with seeds, pebbles or sticks, stitching and different ways and clamping are some of the techniques used in tie-dye. The skilled and expertise of the artist and variations in colour combinations can make each piece unique.


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