This page is designed to help you become a successful and happy natural dyer. The resources listed are the ones that I use, have found helpful, and/or frequently reference. Not all dye books are created equal, and some are more detailed than others. Depending on your own level of skill, some of these natural dye resources will be more helpful than others.
Books for Natural Dyeing:
Koekboya by Harald Bomer . This book is my go-to book to figure out why certain natural dyes are better than others. This book covers most of the natural dyes used in the historical Turkish carpets, with details on what plant constituent causes the natural dye color and what other plants also contain it.
Natural Dyes: Sources, Tradition, Technology, and Science by Dominique Cardon. This book is my go-to book for an overview of certain natural dyes. There is a lot of information, techniques, technical, and other valuable natural dye information.
Lichen Dyes: The New Source Book by Karen Diadick Casselman. This book is my go-to for all things lichen dyed. It is a different angle on natural dyes, since lichens use a different dye method than other natural dyes.
North American Dye Plants by Anne Bliss. This book is perfect for figuring out what native North American plants will give you when used for natural dyes. It includes the color result from different mordants, and while I would not recommend all the mordants that they used, the book is still a valuable resources.
Indigo, Madder, and Marigold by Trudy Van Stralen. I enjoy this book as a reference, and an information book. There is a different indigo dye method in this book, as well as some very interesting ideas for larger scale natural dye production.
Natural Dyes and Gardens:
A Dyer’s Garden by Rita Buchannan. This book covers 18 specific natural dye plants. It includes some growing and planting information, as well as samples of fiber dyed with the specific plant, and specified mordants.
A Garden to Dye For by Chris Mclaughlin. I enjoyed this book, and have referenced it for some specific natural dye garden questions.
A Weaver’s Garden also by Rita Buchannan – Similar to A Dyer’s Garden, just published sooner and more focused on plants for fiber AND dyes, as opposed to just natural dyes.
Natural Dye General Information and History:
Indigo by Jenny Balfour Paul. This book is all about Indigo. It includes history, chemistry, and a whole pile of other indigo related facts, anecdotes, incidents, and information. This is my go-to book for all things indigo, and even a few things related to woad indigo. There is also a more recent paper back edition.
A Perfect Red by Amy Butler Greenfield. This book is slightly more like a fiction read, than a natural dye reference. However, I frequently reference it when I want to check facts about the history of Cochineal and Madder.
Navajo and Hopi Dyes, editor Bill Reisk. This is an American book, originally printed in the first half of the 1900’s. It contains a lot of information on tradition First Nations dyes, and is an awesome resource for which native plants to use, particularly in the Southern USA.
The History of Woad and the Medieval Woad Vat by John Edmonds – This book is one of my references for the history of woad, and the different woad vats. This is actually a booklet, more than a book.
Alum is the go-to natural dye mordant. Alum is the only natural dye mordant that does not impart a secondary color to the dyed fabric.
Cream of tartar is used in connection with alum to help the metal salt adhere to the wool fibers. Both Alum and Cream of Tartar are used on all protein fiber natural dye vats, and cellulose and baste fiber natural dye vats. Cellulose and baste fibers can also benefit from a tannin mordant in addition to the Alum and Cream of Tartar.
Natural Dye Seed Source:
Richter’s Herbs in Canada is my preferred source of natural dye seed. Richters can ship to the USA, and will send a phyto-sanitary certificate with live plants. Note: While I get initial seeds from Richters, I like saving my own seed from the plants that thrive in my zone. This practice can improve natural dye yield as the plants become acclimatized to your growing conditions.
Rare Natural Dye Books:
The books in this list are those that are no longer in print, or are not offered through online distributors. Depending on your country, you may be able to find some of these books in used book stores, or through other “old book” sources.
The Woad Plant and It’s Dye by Jamieson B. Hurry. This book contains the entire history of woad. If you can find it, I highly recommend this book. It is likely only in the UK, since it was printed there in the 1800s. I managed to find my copy through an online book seller, but cannot currently locate any copies to link to.