How To Make Your Own Signature Black Natural Dye

Want to know how to make your very own signature black natural dye? Here’s a really good black recipe from Kathy to send you into tannin and iron experiments all day…or maybe, for the rest of your life.

Black with gallo tannin, iron and logwood is a historical recipe from Europe and creates a warm black. Prior to the introduction of logwood to Europe, black was achieved through multiple baths of tannin and iron, or by overdyeing with madder, weld and woad.

The basic rule of thumb with this recipe is that you can dye and continue overdyeing to achieve darker shades and you can save and re-use your dye baths for future dyeing.

Note that this recipe uses a lot of iron, so keep the ingredients away from babies and children. Iron is also damaging to wool and silk over time. Wear a mask and gloves when measuring powders and working in the dye baths.

Experiment with different fabrics and create your own signature black!

You can use raw dyestuffs or extracts. Use raw dyestuffs at a 1:1 ratio of dyestuff to fiber and prepare each dye separately. If you are using extracts, use between 20-25% extract to the weight of fiber. You can prepare your iron and logwood dye baths after the fibers are ready to be removed from the tannin bath.

Create a tannin bath (if using extracts you will need about 100-125 grams per 500g of fiber.)
Dissolve tannin extract in boiling water and create a cold water bath with enough water to move the fiber easily. Soak scoured fibers in tannin for a minimum of 4 hours to 24 hours stirring occasionally. A good strong tannin, such as gallo-tannin, tara, myrobalan or cutch works well. If you want to speed up this process, put the bath in a dye pot and heat to 160F (71C) for one hour, then let the fibers cool down and proceed to the next step.

Dip the fiber into Iron
Dissolve 100-125 grams of iron in cold water and add to a separate cold water bath. Wearing gloves, remove the fibers from the tannin bath and immerse in the iron bath. The fibers should turn gray. Hold the fibers in the iron bath for about 30 minutes, then remove and let excess iron liquid drip back into the iron bath.

Deepen the shade with Logwood
Dissolve 20% Rich Purple Logwood extract in hot water and add to a dye pot with enough warm water so the fibers move easily. Add the fiber and heat to about 160F (71C) rotating the fabric. The fabric should look “oily black” in the dye pot. Hold for 1 hour. Remove goods, cool and rinse with cool water.

Going even darker
If you want to achieve even darker shades, you can repeat the tannin/iron/logwood process and finish with a final dip in iron.