FAQ's + Dye Info

How Do You Prepare Fabric For Dyeing?

Fabric preparation is the most important part of the natural dye process. Just like cleaning, sanding, and priming a hard surface before painting, fabric needs to be prepared before dyeing. Thorough, fiber-appropriate preparation ensures that when dye is applied, it is as colorfast and vibrant as possible. Preparing Cellulosic (plant-based) fibers (cotton, hemp, bamboo, etc) Cellulose fibers do not have the same natural affinity for dye as protein (animal based) fibers, like wool and silk. In order to maximize colorfastness and achieve bright, bold colors, a milti-step process is needed. 1) Scour: Deep cleaning fabric to remove dirt, imanufacturing residues, waxes, sizing, etc. Thiis requires simmering fabric in a bath of water, soda ash, and Synthrapol (a neutral textile detergent). 2) Tannin Bath: Scoured fabric is soaked overnight in a warm bath consisting of water and plant-derived tannin. We primarily use sustainably harvested green Aleppo Oak Gall from a small, family-run business in Turkey. Tanninc Acid has an affinity for cellulose fibers, and aids in the adherance of the mordant applied in the next step. 3) Pre-Mordant: After gently rinsing off unattached tannin, fabric is soaked for several hours (or days) in a heated metallic salt bath of Aluminum Acetate and water. These metallic salt molecules bind to the tannin-treated fiber molecules. When dyeing, the molecules bind to mordant molecules forming an insoluable lake within the fiber (a more stable molecular bond which provides increased light-fastness and wash-fastness, as well as increased vibrancy). TLDR: Fabric needs to be prepped in order for dye molecules to "stick" to the fiber. Good prep means more vibrant colors that fade less and stand up better to washing, wear, and UV-light. Lots of science.

How Does The Dye Process Work?

Natural dyeing is a complex, multi-day process with many steps which must be followed to ensure long-lasting results - from scouring and mordanting fibers in the appropriate tannic acid and metallic salt baths, to selection of colorfast dyestuffs and proper application technique - the science of this craft is based on thousands of years of trial and error in combination with contemporary scientific study. We use a variety of techniques when dyeing depending on the desired result. Some of our most used techniques are as follows: Dye Bath: Used to achieve a solid, all-over color (or a gradient dip-dye effect) . Raw dye material (plant parts, ground cochineal, etc) is added to a pot of water and heated for a period of time to extract the dye. This process is repeated until no more color is left in the raw materials. The leftover organic material is composted in our garden. The resulting liquid is our dye bath, and can be used immediately. Pre-mordanted fabric is submerged and simmered in the dye bath until desired color is achieved. Pre-extracted dyes in the form of fine powders can be used in place of raw materials. Bundle Dyeing: Used to achieve one of a kind “splatter” prints. Every bundle dyed piece is totally unique and cannot be exactly duplicated. This process involves scattering raw dyestuff and extracts onto pre-mordanted fabrics, rolling the fabric into a bundle, tying it up to secure it, and steaming or boiling the bundle for several hours. Modifications can be made to achieve different results, like a repeating or mirrored print. Eco-Printing: “Eco Printing creates (more or less perfect) prints of leaves, using the natural pigments, tannins and acids present in leaves, by combining them with mordants, moisture and heat on fabric.” - Suzanne Dekel The most common form of eco-printing uses “iron water”, a solution of water and ferrous sulfate (or ferrous acetate, an impure version of which can be made at home by soaking rusted metal in a water and vinegar for several weeks to months). Leaves/plant parts are placed directly onto fabric that has been dipped in iron water. Alternatively, the leaves themselves can be soaked in iron water instead of the fabric, or one can use a “carrier blanket” which is a separate piece of iron-dipped fabric placed on top of leaves and fabric. The layering of base fabric-leaves-(carrier blanket) is topped off with a barrier sheet of paper, cloth, or recycled plastic to keep the print from “ghosting”. The bundle is wrapped around a wooden dowel and tightly wound with twine, then steamed for several hours. The resulting print features sharp outlines and crisp details of the leaves and plants, and can be modified with the addition of a tannin pre-mordant, or overdyed/underdyed in a dye bath or indigo vat. Indigo Vat: We use two types of indigo vats depending on desired outcome; We primarily use an Organic Fructose Vat using the 1-2-3 build method originally developed by botanist and dye chemist Michel Garcia. We also keep an Iron (Ferrous) Vat which we used to quickly achieve deeper shades. We do not currently use chemical vats (Sodium Hydrosulfite “Hydros” or Thiourea Dioxide “Thiox”). While they can be used to reliably and quickly build a vat, they are much more toxic and pose greater risks to both the dyer and the environment.

How Do I Care For My Naturally Dyed Garment/Fabric?

Naturally dyed fabrics require a bit of special care to keep them in good condition. Please follow these instructions to maximize the life of your dyed product. If you have additional questions, please email us! -Exposure to UV light (like direct sunlight), as well as frequent washing, can accelerate fading. We reccomend minimizing direct sunlight and washing infrequently, only when needed. -When necessary, hand wash in cool water using a pH nuetral detergent*. Some accessible options include ECOS Free + Clear or Seventh Generation Free + Clear. In a pinch, you can use diluted Dr. Bronners Liquid Castille Soap (slightly alkaline) or Dawn Blue Dish Soap (the kind they use for cleaning animals after an oil spill). -Gently squeeze out excess water (do not wring), and lay flat or hang to dry away from direct sunlight. *Some natural dyes are sensitive to pH levels, and using a non-neutral detergent may alter the dye color. Sometimes, perspiration can be acidic or alkaline, and may alter dyes. If you experience discoloration around the armpits or other areas of a garment that are exposed to sweaty skin, this is usually the culprit.

What Dyesuff Do You Use?

We use a variety of fresh and dried organic matter (dyestuff) to achieve a wide range of colors. Whenenever possible, we source from local growers, gardeners, and farmers. The dyestuff we use includes: Rubia Cordifolia (Madder Root), Coreopsis Tinctoria (Dyer's Coreopsis), Cosmos Sulphureus (Sulfur Cosmos), Haematoxylum Campechianum (Logwood), Reseda Luteola (Weld), Schinopsis Lorentzii (Quebracho Rojo), Catechu (Cutch), Terminalia chebula (Myrobalan), Quercus infectoria Gall (Oak Gall), Tagetes spp. (Marigold), Coreopsis Tinctioria (Dyer's Coreopsis), Kerria lacca resin (Lac), Cochineal (parasitic scale insect, commonly used as an ingredient in makeup and food/drinks, labeled as carminic acid, Natural Red 4, or E120), Persicaria Tinctoria (Japanese Indigo), Indigofera Tinctoria (True Indigo), Scabiosa Atropurpurea (Black Knight Scabiosa), Rudbeckia spp. (various species).


Fading All dyes, natural and synthetic, are subject to fading with time. Some natural dyes fade more quickly than others, and in general, natural dyes are more prone to fading than their synthetic counterparts. We take every possible measure to make sure that our naturally dyed products are as colorfast, lightfast, and washfast as possible. This includes proper fabric preparation with an appropriate pre-mordant to increase fastness, selection of suitable dyestuffs, and light/wash tests. A Note on Fugitive "Dyes" Fugitive “dyes” are materials that color fabric temporarily; They are not true dyes, but stains. Common sources of fugitive color include most kitchen waste (ie: beans, cabbage, beets, berries), as well as most flowers (with some exceptions). Any color achieved using fugitive sources will fade or completely disappear very rapidly, even if they are not washed or exposed to sun. They can be great for projects with limited shelf life, like egg dyeing and other crafts. They are also a great way to dip your toes into the process of natural dyeing without leaving the house! We love how accessible kitchen waste is, and encourage experimentation (with safety precautions, of course)! We want our products to last a long time, and to stand up to normal wear with minimal fading. For this reason, we tend to stay away from fugitive colors when creating products for sale.

Shop Policies

Return Policy

We want you to be happy with your purchase. If you are not satisfied with your product, or if something doesn't look right upon delivery, please give us a chance to make it right! Email hello@waxflowerdyeworks.com as soon as possible. RETURNS ---- Our return policy lasts 14 days. If 14 days have gone by since your purchase, unfortunately we can’t offer you a refund or exchange. To be eligible for a return, your item must be unused and in the same condition that you received it. It must also be in the original packaging. Several types of goods are exempt from being returned. Dyestuff (raw, dried, extracts, etc) cannot be returned. We also do not accept products that are intimate goods, including undergarments like bras, underwear, lingerie, swimwear, socks, hats, and bandanas/face coverings. Additional non-returnable items:
* Gift cards
* Downloadable software products
To complete your return, we require a receipt or proof of purchase. There are certain situations where only partial refunds are granted: (if applicable)
* item with obvious signs of use
* Any item not in its original condition, is damaged or missing parts for reasons not due to our error.
* Any item that is returned more than 30 days after delivery Refunds (if applicable)
Once your return is received and inspected, we will send you an email to notify you that we have received your returned item. We will also notify you of the approval or rejection of your refund.
If you are approved, then your refund will be processed, and a credit will automatically be applied to your credit card or original method of payment, within a certain amount of days. Late or missing refunds (if applicable)
If you haven’t received a refund yet, first check your bank account again.
Then contact your credit card company, it may take some time before your refund is officially posted.
Next contact your bank. There is often some processing time before a refund is posted.
If you’ve done all of this and you still have not received your refund yet, please contact us at waxflowerdyeworks@gmail.com. Sale items (if applicable)
Only regular priced items may be refunded, unfortunately sale items cannot be refunded. Exchanges (if applicable)
We only replace items if they are defective or damaged. If you need to exchange it for the same item, send us an email at hello@waxflowerdyeworks.com Gifts
If the item was marked as a gift when purchased and shipped directly to you, you’ll receive a gift credit for the value of your return. Once the returned item is received, a gift certificate will be mailed to you. If the item wasn’t marked as a gift when purchased, or the gift giver had the order shipped to themselves to give to you later, we will send a refund to the gift giver and he will find out about your return. Shipping
To return your product, you should mail your product to: Hannah Edelstein Waxflower Dye Works c/o Arsenal Motors 3706 Butler St, Pittsburgh, PA 15201 You will be responsible for paying for your own shipping costs for returning your item. Shipping costs are non-refundable. If you receive a refund, the cost of return shipping will be deducted from your refund. Depending on where you live, the time it may take for your exchanged product to reach you, may vary. If you are shipping an item, you should consider using a trackable shipping service or purchasing shipping insurance. We don’t guarantee that we will receive your returned item.