A Natural Dyer's Getaway – Four in the Forest

by - Thursday, November 25, 2021


Four Maiwa staff on a dyer's weekend in the Pacific Northwest prove how easy it is to make natural colour in any landscape.

We highlight some of our favourites below.


From Europe to Asia, madder is the source of historic reds. Skilled dyers can move it from blood to brick. The pulverized roots have a smoky fragrance of their own. When you bring your dyebath to a simmer over an open fire there is a mingling of the smoke of the wood and the dusky fragrance of the roots.

We worked with rubia cordifolia on both yarns and cloth to obtain a wealth of reds. Madder is very satisfying to work with - it makes a wonderful dyepot on an open fire.


Buckthorn is noted for the colours given by its fruits - known historically as Persian berries. Ours are collected and sorted according to the colours of the berries - which gives an indication of the colourants they contain and the final colours they will give.

We were able to bring a little sunlight into the forest by working with buckthorn on yarns. The grey yarns gave us a wonderful shade, while on the white yarns the buckthorn kept its promise of sunlight.

The lac insect provides red of lac dye and also the resinous substance known as shellac. The red is a cool one with notes of almost purple in it. It has a hue which is similar to the two other famous insect dyes, kermes and cochineal. 

We worked with lac dye on shawls made of tussar silk. Tussar is a wild silk which drinks in the colour. By only putting part of the shawl in the dyepot we created an ombre effect. A beautiful contrast between the colour of lac and the natural colour of the silk. 

Wonderful bombyx mori, silk bundle-dyed with lac and buckthorn.

See all blank silk textiles perfect for dyeing.

Simple shaped resist techniques can take you a long way. We brought some clamp boards from our studio and also used tongue depressors - very versatile!

The autumn sky reflected in our rinse pot.

A cup of tea is welcome for the meditative act of untying our stitch resist. Conversation flows when your hands are busy. 

Our crew for a dyer's weekend. We all arrived with different levels of experience, but we all left with equal levels of satisfaction. Two clothes lines of freshly dyed textiles behind us.

The times before the dyeing begins are the best. Hours are filled with excitement and anticipation. The shaped resist is applied, designs are thought out, colours are considered, and one gets the feeling that the cloth itself is anxious to go into the dyepot. 

We did our scouring and mordanting before we left - this makes everything flow smoothly when you arrive at your destination.

You can make your studio anywhere. Here are some of our supplies that we brought along with us.

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To our U.S. customers – don't forget that the exchange rate works in your favour, it's like an extra discount.

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