Vegetable dyes, or natural dyes, are dyes or colourants obtained and derived from plants, invertebrates, or minerals. However, the majority of natural dyes are vegetable dyes sourced from plantsroots, berries, bark, leaves, and wood etc.

The plants from which these dyes are extracted, have been on mother earth since the beginning of time. Archaeologists have found evidence of textile dyeing dating back to the Neolithic period. In China, dyeing with plants, barks and insects has been traced back more than 5,000 years.[Goodwin, 1982] The Phoenicians, Native Americans, the Vikings and countless other peoples and tribes around the world have all used (naturally occurring) vegetable dyes to add colour to their lives.

The essential process of dyeing has changed little over time and by the early 19th C. the industrial scale dyeing of fabrics was already in progress. However, the textile industry and the latest colours in fashion, were dependent on plants, growing seasons and the success, or failure, of crops. When synthetic dyes were developed in the mid 19th C., the move away from vegetable dyes was a fait accompli, as synthetic dyes could be produced in vast quantities with results guaranteed and fading almost eliminated. With spectacular advances in the chemicals industry over the next fifty to one hundred years, by the mid-20th C., the textile industries had all but phased out plant dyes and by the 1970s very few retained any knowledge of how to create vegetable dyes.

But what of the cottage industry or DIY Dyer who simply cant keep pace with industry? In 1916 Ethel Mairet produced this book, which had no less than six reprints between 1916 and 1935. Forgotten, but after much research, it has been uncovered and Abela Publishing takes delight in reproducing it. Abela has also included an Addendum covering the plants and methods used by Native Americans and the Vikings in colourising their fabrics and materials.

We do hope you will enjoy this free eBook. NOTE: IT IS FREE. Under no circumstances is this book to be sold. So, we encourage you to freely pass it on to anyone and everyone you know who has an interest in fabric dyeing. Not only will it keep the old ways alive, but it will mean doing your bit to ensure our environment is protected. Not only are the plants naturally occurring, their production is sustainable with the benefit to the planet being more than just the production of natural dyes.

NOTE: In the early 21st century, the market for natural dyes in the fashion industry has experienced a resurgence. Western consumers are now more concerned about the health and environmental impact of synthetic dyes in manufacturing process and there is a growing demand for products that use natural dyes. Even the European Union, for example, has encouraged Indonesian batik cloth producers to switch to natural dyes to improve their export market in Europe.