subtle and harmonious natural colours

The art of making vegetable dyes is one of the oldest known to man and dates back to the dawn of Civilization. Plants were used for colouring clothes. All over the world dyeing and print techniques were used to develop dyeing tones in harmony with nature.

Our ancestors sometimes travelled the world to find dyes for their garments to the point of damaging ecosystems that are nowadays almost extinct.

It is also interesting to note that the colonization has a history closely intertwined with that of dyes.

In the nineteenth century, natural dye recipes were replaced by chemical processes, which were definitely more toxic for both the environment and dyeing industry workers. Again it was primordial to take part in the expansion of pharmaceutical industries even if it was to be at the cost of the planet and workers’ well being.

Unlike chemical dyes, vegetable dyes are nontoxic and do not provoke allergies. Some dye plants essences possibly have curative and therapeutic effects.

at the workshop

- to consider biodiversity with respect, we use as many indigenous plants as possible

- we mostly use dyes made of invasive plants that are collected in season

- foreign imported dye plants are purchased from ethical projects (see Maiwa website)

- we obviously never have recourse to polluting mordants such as hydrosulfite generally used with indigo. For dye plants such as indigo we resort to fermentation processes.

- our fabrics are immersed in dye baths with tannin mordanting only, namely alum. Afterwards, they are sometimes also immersed in a bath of (vinegar and nails or filings of iron), or even with potash.

- our dye baths are used optimally: they are usually used a second time to “prepare” a fabric or to fix its colours

- our vegetable dyes offer quite a diversified and harmonious combination of natural tones...

Dye plant list

« Reclaimed » plants

(collected from kitchens and from backyards but also during specific walks in peak picking season)

- onion skin

- pomegranate peel – Punica granatum

- the privet – Ligustrum vulgaris

- the silver birch - Betula pendula

- patience dock- Rumex patientia

- mugwort/common wormwood - Artemisia vulgaris

- cups of acorns – Quercus

- Gall Oak, Lusitanian Oak, or Dyer's Oak - Quercus infectoria

- the ash – Fraxinus excelsior

- the bark of fruitrees – Prunus, sweet chestnut – Castanea sativa, etc.

- the blue gum – Eucalyptus globulus


« Invasive » plants

- the common hop – Humulus lupulus

- the japanese knotweed - Fallopia japonica,

- the tree of heaven - Ailanthus altissima

- the staghorn sumac - Rhus typhina

- the elm-leaved sumac or tanner's sumac - Rhus coriaria


« Exotic» plants

- the madder – Rubia tinctoria et Rubia cordifolia

- the wig tree– Rhus cotinus

- the bois d’Arc

– Maclura pomifera

- the logwood – Haematoxylum campehianum

- the achiote  – Bixa orellana

- the catechu/ cachou/ black cutch – Acacia catechu

- the gambier – Uncaria gambier


« Fermented» plants

- woad - Isatis tinctoria

- Indigo – Indigofera tinctoria

- walnut stain