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Wild Colours natural dyes > indigo dye > shibori > shibori & natural dyes

Shibori & Natural Dyes

Shibori tie-dye with indigo on cotton | Wild Colours natural dyes

Buy natural indigo for shibori here

Natural dyes for tie dyeing

Bound resists require immersion times to be as short as possible. For a clear pattern with light and dark areas you need to use dyes that act quickly and can be made into a strong bath, such as indigo or cochineal. Slower working dyes, such as madder, allow the colour to penetrate under the tie resulting in a less defined pattern.

Although a white pattern against a dark background provides the greatest contrast, your tie-dye does not need to have a white background. You can dye your fabric in the usual way before or after tie-dyeing; it is important, however, to have a good balance between colours.


Indigo is the best dye to use with tie-dye as you can dye your fabric a beautiful blue in just 10 minutes in the indigo vat.

Soak your tied fabric in water for an hour before immersing it in the indigo vat. Move it around in the water to get rid of as many air bubbles as possible. Air caught in the folds of the fabric adds oxygen to the indigo vat which prevents the vat from working well.

There are several types of indigo vat:

  • The better known spectralite or ‘hydros’ vat works well and it is fast to set up, but it does not produce very dark blues. The spectralite vat is best for wool and silk, but it can also be used for cotton. Read more about dyeing with indigo and spectralite here.
  • The zinc-lime vat works well and produces very dark blues, but the ingredients are not so easy to get hold of. One advantage of this vat is that it does not have a strong smell. This vat is suitable for cotton and, with certain precautions, you can also use it for silk. It is not suitable for wool as it is very alkaline and high alkalinity damages wool. Read more about the zinc-lime vat in J N Liles “The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing”.
  • The ferrous sulphate vat (also know as copperas vat) is very good for cotton and other plant fibres and it allows you to build up dark blues. It is not suitable for wool and silk as the high iron content damages these fibres. The ingredients for this vat are easy to find.

Go to:

a) Fabric for tie dyeing (opens a new page)

c) Choice of threads for tie dye (opens a new page)

d) Tie dye tips (opens a new page)

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Last updated on 01 June 2016
Website & photos by Mike Roberts ©2006-16 Wild Colours Natural Dyes


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