Dying textiles used to be hard and dirty work. The workers had to work in hazardous vapours and the smell of urine De that was used to fixate the dye. The most important colours were red, yellow blue and blackt. These colour were made by using plants although some dyes were made from animal products. We concentrate on the plants used for dye. The list is far from complete but gives a nice impression of the possibilities.
For a Dutch description of these plants check: http://www.wilde-planten.nl
A few of the pictures on this page were found on that site.

Bloeiende wouw

Yellow can be made from many different plants so is an easy colour to make. The weld (Reseda luteola) was commonly used for it’s contains a yellow dye luteolinet. The weld has been known for about 4000 years, seeds were found near palafittes. They could have been used as dye plants but also as a plant with healing properties.

              • tansy, flowering tops (Tanacetum vulgare)
              • Juniper berry, fresh crushed berries (Juniperus communis)
              • small coltsfoot, whole plant (Tussilago farfara)
              • privet, leafs, new shoots (Ligustrum vulgare)
              • heather, new tops (Calluna vulgaris)
              • onion, peels (Allium cepa)
              • dyer’s broom, Flowering tops (Genista tinctoria)
              • yellow chamomile, whole flowers (Anthemis tinctoria)


  • cleavers, roots (Galium aparine)
  • madder, roots (Rubia tinctorum)
  • common bugloss, roots (Anchusa officinalis)
  • lady’s bedstraw, roots (Galium verum of Mollugo)
  • common sorrel, roots (Rumex acetosa)


              • Bracken fern, new shoots (Pteridium aquilinum)
              • stinging-nettle, whole plant] (Urtica dioica)
              • privet, ripe berries (Ligustrum vulgare)
              • asarabacca, roots (Asarum europaeum)
              • heather, fresh twigs (Calluna vulgaris)
              • black elder, leafs (Sambucus nigra)
              • weld, whole plant (Reseda luteola)

Bloeiende wede

Blue dye was made from the woad (Isatis tinctoria), the only source of a natural blue dye in these parts. Woad was already known in Egypt, possibly as far back as 1000 B.C. Urine was used as a mordant or stain. When the coloured textile were exposed to the air the yellow dye turned blue. This drying was usually done on Mondays so the workers never had much to do on that day, hence the frase ‘a blue Monday’. When indigo from India is brought to Europa the use of woad slowly diminishes. Indigo contains thirty times more indigo then the woad and is therefore much cheaper.


              • common bugloss or alkanet give a purple or greyish blue hue. If you some lichens yeast, you can also make beautiful purple colours. Lichen is an endangered specie so don’t pick them yourself!
              • bearberry, dried leafs + alum (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
              • black elder, berries (Sambucus nigra)
              • woad, leafs (Isatis tinctoria)


  • bramble, new shoots (Rubus sp.)
  • Juniper berry, dried crushed berries (Juniperus communis)walnut, leafs, green huskes en peels (Juglans regia)
  • bearberry, dried leaf + iron (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
  • Meadowsweet, roots (Filipendula ulmaria).

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