Our First Steps in Fabric Dyeing with Natural Dyes

Our First Steps in Fabric Dyeing with Natural Dyes

8th and 9th March 2104Title pic 2
Natural Dye Workshop held at
Maya Organic premises,
Channapatna, Karnataka




In Kannada language gombe means toy and ooru means town. Channapatna, near Bangalore, is well known for its traditional lacware handicraft and is often referred to as the Gombegala Ooru (the toy town ) of Karnataka because of its lacware wooden toys.

Channapatna lacware toys are bright and colourful. They are made on the lathe and finished with natural lac. They can be coloured either with synthetic dyes or natural dyes.Maya Organic wooden toys are made by the lacware artisans of Channapatna and are coloured with natural dyes. In the recent past there is an increased awareness about the harmful effects of many synthetic paints and colours, especially for children’s toys. As a result, natural dyes are gaining importance.

Maya Organic, Channapatna, Natural Dye WS_Lec 1_LRS

Though natural dyes are being used in Channapatna, the natural dye colour palette in lacware craft is very limited when compared to that of fabric dyeing. Also the process of colour application in lacware craft is very different from that of fabric dyeing. This workshop was organised by MAYA ORGANIC to learn more about the various natural dye sources and to gain an understanding of the process of colour extraction and fabric dyeing.

Resource Persons:This workshop was conducted by Mr. T Sudhakar Reddy, retired professor, Dept.of Fine Arts, Andhra University, Vishakapattanam, and Mrs. T Sudhakar Reddy.

Mr.Anand Dharwar of Gram Nirman, Kanakapura, came to participate in this workshop and actively shared with us his knowledge and experience about natural dyes and fabric dyeing.

Maya Organic, Channapatna, Natural Dye WS_Lec 3_LRSMaya Organic, Channapatna, Natural Dye WS_ Lec 2_LRS

The workshop began with an interactive lecture session by Mr. Sudhakar Reddy, on the history and importance of natural dyes. He explained the significance of natural dyes in terms of sustainability, environmental impact and their medicinal values and benefits and introduced some commonly used natural dye materials.

Maya Organic Channapatna Wooden toys Annatto 1aAnnatto(English), Sindhur (Hindi), Rangmale (Kannada), Uragumanjal (Tamil), Japhara (Telugu)

Part Used – Seed, Dye Clr – Orange




Maya organic channapatna wooden toys Myrobalan 1a


Myrobalan (English), Harad (Hindi), Alale, (Kannada), Kadukkai (Tamil), Karakkaya (Telugu)

Part Used – Fruit / Nut Dye Clr – Butter Yellow



Maya Organic Chananpatna wooden toys Marigold 1a

Marigold(English), Gendha (Hindi), Chendu Hoovu (Kannada), Tuluka Samandhi (Tamil)

Part Used – Flower, Dye – Bright Yellow




Maya Organic Channapatna wooden toys Manjishta 1a

Indian Madder (English), Sindhur (Hindi), Manjishta (Sanskrit , Kannada)

Part Used – Root, Dye – Orange




Maya Organic Channapatna Wooden Toys Moduga 1a

Flame of Forest (English), Dhak, Palas, Tesu (Hindi), Moduga (Telugu)

Part Used – Flower, Dye – Dark Yellow




Maya Organic Channapatna Wooden Toys Pomogranate 1a

Pomogranate (English), Anar (Hindi), Dalimbe (Kannada), Madulai (Tamil), Danimma (Telugu)

Part Used – Fruit Peel / Rind, Dye – Yellow




Maya Organic Channapatna Wooden Toys Revalchini 1a

Indian Rhubarb (English), Dolu (Hindi), Nattu Reval-Chini(Tamil, Telugu)

Part Used – Rhyzome, Root, Dye – Pale Yellow




Maya Organic Channapatna Wooden Toys Hale1a

Sweet Indrajao (English), Dudhi (Hindi), Haale (Kannada), Palai (Tamil), Ankudu (Telugu)

Part Used – Leaves, Dye – Blue




We included the Haale tree leaves in our experiments on Mr. Anand’s suggestion. That these leaves can yield a blue colour was a complete surprise to us.

Colour Extraction The dye material is first crushed and soaked in water for 3 to 4 hours. It is then heated over a flame for about an hour till the dye is completely extracted into the water. The extract is then filtered to remove the dye material and the dye bath is ready for dyeing the fabric.

Maya Organic Channapatna Wooden Tops Natural Dye Prep Annato

Maya Organic Channapatna Wooden Toys Natural Dye Prep 1Maya Organic Channapatna wooden toys Natural Dye Extraction 1







Fabric preparation :We used white cotton fabric for dyeing. Before dyeing, the fabric has to be first treated with with alum so that the dye gets fixed to the fabric. This is called mordanting the fabric. A small quantity of alum is added to warm water and stirred till the alum is completely dissolved. Dip the fabric into this alum solution till it is uniformly and thoroughly soaked with this solution. The fabric is then removed and excess water is gently squeezed out. The fabric is now ready for dyeing.

Dyeing the Fabric: Introduce the mordanted fabric into the dye bath. Continue heating the dye bath on a low flame and allow the fabric to soak in the dye bath for 15 minutes to half an hour. Take the fabric out of the dye bath and wash in water to remove any excess dye. Dye the fabric several times to get darker shades. We also tried out Tie and Dye and got beautiful patterns.

Manjishta 1a

Cotton Fabric dyed with Manjishta






Myrobalam 1a

Cotton Fabric dyed with Myrobalan






Tie & Dye 1a

Tie & Dye – Sample 1






Tie & Dye 2a

Tie & Dye – Sample 2






Tie & Dye 3a

Tie & Dye – Sample 2






Hale 1a


Faint Blue with Haale Leaves





Learning to dye the fabric with natural dyes has been a wonderful experience.
If only we could get such lovely shades on wood!