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Common "Vegetable" Dyes....

Color in the rug From this material Notes
red to orange root of the madder plant Rubia tinctoria
salmon depleted madder dye as dye baths are re-used, the dye gets weaker and colors get lighter
bright red to burgundy cochineal (dried insect carapace) often from Dactylopius coccus
blue-red to purple-red lac (resin secreted by insect) often from Coccus laccae
light blue to navy indigo (extracted from the indigo plant) Indigoferra
pale yellow to yellow-brown larkspur or isparuk (a flowering plant) Delphinium sulpureum
pale yellow to yellow-brown weld (a flowering herb) Reseda luteola
brown oak bark, tree galls Quercus
black tannin, oak tree galls, iron this dye is often damaging to wool
green double-dye of larkspur and indigo  


Vegetable Dyeing Techniques....

Common vegetable dyes
The most commonly used vegetable dyes are indigo (originally obtained by extracting and fermenting indican from the leaves of the indigo plant), madder (produced by boiling the dried, chunked root of the madder plant in the dye pot), and larkspur (produced by boiling the crushed leaves, stems, and flowers of the larkspur plant). These dyes produce, respectively, dark navy blue, dark rusty-red, and muted gold. Long ago dyers realized that as more wool was dyed in a single dyepot, colors became weaker and weaker. Dyers use this notion of depleated dyes to their advantage. The first dyeing produces a deep, strong color. Subsequent dyeings in the same dyepot produce lighter, softer colors (like the three shades of indigo, madder, and yellow illustrated here):

Vegetable dye materials

Dyers also quickly learned to combine colors to produce different hues. There is, for instance, no "vegetable" dye material that yields green (an important color if you're interested in weaving a floral design!). First dyeing wool blue, then dyeing it again with yellow, does produce a green color. If you look closely at the green color in a vegetable-dyed rug, you will commonly see that the color is uneven, more blue-green in some areas, and more yellow-green in others. This is because of the double-dyeing technique:

Double-dying makes more colors

So, by using the notion that depleted dyes produce different hues, and by combining some dyes through overdyeing wool, dyers can produce a surprisingly large pallette of colors from a very limited variety of materials. These people are clever!

Three dyes yield twelve colors