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Assamese Natural Dye Recipes


Now that our stay in Assam has ended and we have access to a great Internet connection we would like to share the recipes for the dyes we have made in Assam.

We used locally available plants which could be collected from the village itself.
The shades we have gotten will vary with the season, the soil, the amount used, the water and the mordant, so you might get different results as we do.

TEAK
Tectona grandis


The teak tree will be well known to most of you for its brown-redish wood. However, its leaves have great properties and uses as well.
In some villages, they are still used as plates during big functions which is great as it avoids plastic for many thousands of people.
Likewise, the leaves are used for dyeing. We have used both dried leaves and green leaves gathered in the month of August.

Mordant: Alum 8% WOF
Dye: 5kg teak leaves for 1 kilo of fibre

  1. Scour the fibre as you prefer

  2. Mordant the fibre for 1 hour in water with a temperature of 70°C - 80°C (note: please consider that this temperature was used for protein based fibres, in case you are dyeing with cellulose based fibre, you might want to increase the temperature a little bit.)

  3. Wash the fibre thoroughly 

  4. Cut the leaves roughly

  5. Make the teak juice: boil the leaves with approximately 30-50 liters of water for 2.5 hours. The more you boil, the stronger your dye will be. (note: don't be surprised, it is A LOT of leaves. Add it slowly, so the leaves can already shrink in size)

  6. After boiling, sift the juice and leaves through a muslin cloth, keep the leaves aside.

  7. For dyeing, heat the juice to 70°C – 80°C and leave the fibre for 2 hours, stirring every now and then.

  8. Wash the fibre thoroughly and hang to dry.


This recipe can be followed likewise for onion skins and henna leaves. We have gotten many lovely shades with teak and it's definitely one of our favourite colours.



MYROBALAN 
Terminalia chebula

This plant is really a great all-rounder! Myrobalan can be used for both, mordant and dye as it contains a lot of tannin.
Besides this, it is especially used in Ayurvedic medicine as well as everyday life because it has many healing properties: it helps digestion, headaches, is a natural antioxidant and rejuvenates the tissues.
So there you go: with a few kilos of myrobalan you are all set to do yourself some good! Here is our recipe for which we used dried myrobalan seeds.

Mordant: not required, as it will be automatically mordanted in the dyeing process
Dye: 2 kg of myrobalan per kilo fibre

  1. Scour the fibre as you prefer

  2. Wash the fibre thoroughly

  3. Crush the myrobalan pods by using a stone etc. (Note: be patient, this will take some time)

  4. Make the myrobalan juice: boil the seeds with approximately 30-50 liter of water for 3.5 hours. The more you boil, the stronger your dye will be.

  5. After boiling, sift the juice and pods through a muslin cloth, keep the pods aside.

  6. For dyeing, heat the juice to 70°C – 80°C and leave the fibre for 2 hours, stirring every now and then.

  7. Wash the fibre thoroughly and hang to dry.

We have used this recipe and got a very strong yellow. You might want to decrease the myrobalan used to 500g for 1 kg which should still be sufficient for a nice, paler yellow. This will also give you less work of crushing the pods :)



LAC

Compared to the other two dyes, lac does not come from a plant, but from a small insect called Kerria lacca which produce a sticky paste around branches of trees.
It can be compared to cochinelle, also small insects which produce a similar shade of color.
Lac can be found in Assam as well as the neighbouring state of Meghalaya.

Mordant: Alum 8% WOF
Dye: 500-600g of lac for 1 kilo of fibre

  1. Scour the fibre as you prefer

  2. Mordant the fibre for 1 hour in water with a temperature of 70°C - 80°C (note: please consider that this temperature was used for protein based fibres, in case you are dyeing with cellulose based fibre, you might want to increase the temperature a little bit.)

  3. Wash the fibre thoroughly

  4. Place the lac in a thin (!) muslin cloth

  5. Make the lac juice: boil the lac with approximately 30-50 liter of water for 2.5 hours. The more you boil, the stronger your dye will be

  6. After boiling, remove the cloth and the lac from the bath.

  7. For dyeing, heat the juice to 70°C – 80°C and leave the fibre for 2 hours, stirring every now and then.

  8. Wash the fibre thoroughly and hang to dry.

From our experience, the dye gets absorbed by the fibre very quickly and after dyeing a kilo you might find yourself with almost only water, no more dye. So therefore it is really for only one time use. Hopefully these recipes will inspire some of you! It would be lovely to see your results!


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