Frequently Asked Questions

How do I dye with Osage Orange?

All dyestuff must first be processed to extract the pigment. In beginning any new project, calculate the proper amount of Osage Orange Chips.

First, we need to measure the weight of fabric, WOF. We recommend using 40% WOF, weight of dry materials. For example, if you are dying 500 grams (1 pound) worth of fiber, you would need 200 grams of osage orange.

Weight of Fiber x 0.4 = weight of dry materials

Before dyeing with osage orange, we recommend mordanting your fibers with myrobalan and alum.

To extract dye from osage orange, add about 1 quart of water into a pot then add the pre-measured amount of osage orange. Bring the water to about 175 degrees F, above a simmer but below a boil, for about 30 minutes to an hour (the longer the better!). Strain the osage orange from the liquid, saving the liquid. This liquid is your extract.

You are now ready to begin dyeing and prepping your dye bath!

To prep your dye bath, fill a pot with enough water to fit your fiber. Add the correct amount of dye, extracted liquid, and stir it well.

Begin dyeing your fiber! We recommend getting your mordanted fabrics wet and ringing them out until they are damp; this helps evenly distribute the dye.

Once the fabric is in, slowly begin heating your water to a simmer, about 90 degrees F. Ensure the dye can penetrate every bit of fabric by gently moving it around.

Leave the project in the dye bath for about 45 minutes to an hour.

 The final step is to rinse the dyed fabrics a few times and wash using a pH-neutral liquid detergent, like Dr. Bronner’s.

How do I dye with Black Walnut Paste?

In beginning any new project, the proper amount of Black Walnut Paste needs to be calculated.

First we need to measure the weight of fabric, WOF. We recommend using 50-100% WOF dye paste for dark browns and 5-20% WOF for tans and khakis. For example, if you are dying 500 grams (1 pound) worth of fiber, you would need 250-500 grams of paste for dark browns and 25 - 100 grams for tans.

If we are calculating 50% WOF black walnut paste this would be our formula:

Weight of Fiber x 0.5 = Amount of Black Walnut Paste needed (by weight)

Before dyeing with black walnut, we recommend mordanting your fibers and alum for lighter colors or iron for deep, dark browns.

We made it easy by extracting the dye from our Black Walnut Hulls for you. To prepare your dye bath, fill a pot with warm water, enough to allow your fiber to float freely. Add the pre-measured paste and stir well until it's completely liquid.  

You are now ready to begin dyeing! We recommend getting your mordanted fabrics wet and ringing them out until they are damp, this helps evenly distribute the dye. Once the fabric is in, slowly begin heating your water to a simmer, about 90 degrees F, to dye cotton. For wool or silk increase the temperature to just below a boil, at 180 degrees F. 

Long dye times are recommended to maximize color uptake, 1-2 hours is ideal. Ensure the dye is able to penetrate every bit of fabric by gently moving it around.

The final step is to rinse the dyed fabrics a few times and wash using a pH neutral liquid detergent, like Dr. Bronner’s.

How do I use Myrobalan?

Myrobalan is used as both a dye or a mordant for plant-based fibers, like cotton and linen.

Dyeing with Myrobalan

In beginning any new project, the proper amount of Myrobalan Powder needs to be calculated.

First we need to measure the weight of fabric, WOF. We recommend using 20-30% WOF for buttery yellows. For example, if you are dying 500 grams (1 pound) worth of fiber, you would need 100-150 grams of powder.

If we are calculating 20% of Myrobalan powder this would be our formula:

Weight of Fiber x 0.2 = Amount of Myrobalan powder needed (by weight)

Before dyeing with Myrobalan, we recommend mordanting your fibers with alum for protein-based fibers like wool and silk. For plant-based fabrics, like cotton and linen, you can mordant with myrobalan, then alum.

To prepare your dye bath, fill a pot with warm water, enough to allow your fiber to float freely. Add the pre-measured powder and stir well until it's completely liquid.

You are now ready to begin dyeing! We recommend getting your mordanted fabrics wet and ringing them out until they are damp, this helps evenly distribute the dye. Once the fabric is in, slowly begin heating your water to about 180 degrees F, above a simmer but below a boil with slight steam, for about an hour. This is where you can add modifiers, or dye assists, to manipulate color.  

MAIWA recommends adding 2-4% WOF to the dye bath to produce grey and earthy greens.

The final step is to rinse the dyed fabrics and let them dry overnight. Wash using a pH neutral liquid detergent, like Dr. Bronner’s.

How do I dye with Madder?

In beginning any new project, the proper amount of Madder Paste Extract needs to be calculated.  

First, we need to measure the weight of fabric, WOF. We recommend using 100% WOF for to achieve the deepest most reddish shades possible. For Madder orange, only 50% WOF is needed. For example, if you are dying 500 grams (1 pound) worth of fiber, you would need grams of paste for red, and 250 grams for orange.

If we are calculating 50% of paste this would be our formula:

Weight of Fiber x 0.5 = Amount of Madder Root paste needed (by weight)

Before dyeing, be sure to mordant your fibers accordingly.

We made it easy by extracting the dye from our Madder roots for you. To prepare your dye bath, fill a pot with hot water, enough to allow your fiber to float freely. Add the pre-measured paste and stir well until it's completely liquid.  

You are now ready to begin dyeing! We recommend getting your mordanted fabrics wet and ringing them out until they are damp, this helps evenly distribute the dye. Once the fabric is in, slowly begin heating your water to a light simmer, about 90 degrees F for about 30 min, then increase the temperature to 180 degrees F, above a simmer but below a boil with slight steam, for another 30 min to an hour. This is where you can add modifiers, or dye assists, to further manipulate color.  

Botanical Colors recommends adding chalk, or calcium carbonate at 3-5% WOF to the dye bath to deepen the color. For burgundy shades, add the chalk and leave the fabrics in the dye pot for an additional 30 minutes to an hour.

We recommend adding 5-8% WOF cream of tartar to make terracotta oranges. After dyeing, post-mordanting with iron can result in a muted purple.

The final step is to rinse the dyed fabrics and let them dry overnight. Wash using a pH neutral liquid detergent, like Dr. Bronner’s.

What are Dye Assists?

Dye assists are various chemical and natural compounds used to scour or mordant fibres, or modify colors. Explore all the dye assists we offer.

Scouring Agents - All textiles need to be washed through the process of scouring to remove any impurities, waxes, or oils for a deeper and more even color penetration. Soda ash is typically used to scour most cellulose fibers, like cotton and linen.

Mordants - Mordanting fabric allows for dye to better adhere to the fibers and can affect the vibrancy and color results. Alum, Chalk, and Iron baths can be made to mordant cellulose and protein-based fibers.

Modifiers - When added to a dye bath, modifiers are used to change the resulting color into an array of shades and hue by oftentimes changing the pH balance or chemical composition of the dye bath. Modifiers include pickling lime, chalk, soda ash, alum, iron, and glauber’s salt.

How do I scour my materials?

The process of washing textiles to remove agents that would impact color absorption into the fabric. New textiles often have a film prior to mordanting and dyeing cellulose fibers containing pectin and waxes. Without scouring, you run the risk of the dye bonding to those waxes or pectin rather than the fiber itself, resulting in uneven results and colors that do not wash fast.

Scouring does not mean washing fabrics in your washing machine alone. To properly scour animal or protein-based fibers, silk, or cellulose fibers requires different methods.  

Scouring animal or protein-based fibers like wool and silk:

Protein-based fibers can be damaged from sudden changes in water temperature. Silk should never be boiled as it cannot handle as high of temperatures as wool. Wool or silk textiles can be washed with warm water with concentrated, pH neutral soap or detergents, like Dr. Bronner’s, for a couple cycles. If scouring in a pot of water, heat slightly below a simmer for about an hour, then let the fibre cool down. Since with cool water as the final step. For every pound of material, 1 tsp of detergent is needed.

Scouring plant or cellulose-based fibers like cotton or linen:

For cellulose-based fibers use a concentrated pH neutral soap or detergent with soda ash. For every pound of fabric, 2 tsp of detergent and 4 tsp of soda ash is needed. Simmer in a pot for about an hour or wash for two cycles on the hot setting. If using a pot of water, boil the water to dissolve the soda ash first, then bring down to a simmer to add into the fibers.

Follow along with our video tutorial on Youtube for step-by-step instructions.

What is pre-mordanting and post-mordanting?

Most natural dyes do not adhere to fibres well and need the help of a mordant to achieve bright, lasting color. Indigo is an exception! Pre-mordanting refers to the process of mordanting the fiber, then following it with the dye process.

Mordanting fabric allows for dye to better adhere to the fibers and can affect the vibrancy and color results. Alum, Chalk, and Iron baths can be made to mordant cellulose and protein-based fibers.

Post-mordanting uses modifiers to change the outcome of the color. It can darken the shade, manipulate hues, or create a completely new color by changing the pH balance of chemical composition of the dye bath. Modifiers include pickling lime, chalk, soda ash, alum, iron, and glauber’s salt.

What is a mordant?

Most natural dyes do not adhere to fibres well and need the help of a mordant to achieve bright, lasting color. Indigo is an exception!

All textiles need to be washed through the process of scouring to remove any impurities, waxes, or oils for a deeper and more even color penetration. This is referred to as scouring. It is necessary to scour before mordanting.  

The process of natural dyeing begins with scouring, then mordanting your fabric. The next step is calculating dyestuff, extracting pigment, creating a dyebath, and dyeing your textile. Once dyed, it rests or is set out to dry, properly washed, and ready to go! These are all essential steps.

Alum powder is most commonly used with cream of tartar for protein-based fibers like wool and silk. Cream of tartar improves the overall consistency of the dye and often adds vibrancy to the color.  

When you mordant cotton and other plant- based fibers you need to use tannin as part of the mordanting process. Protein-based fibers already contain natural tannins and do not require this extra step.  

There are two kinds of tannins: clear tannins that do not add color, and colorful tannins that add a bit of a yellow-ish tint.

Some of the most clear tannins are gallnut and sumac. Myrobalan and henna can be used as color tannins.

What is the difference between a hydro, fructose, and iron vat?

Each vat is used to extract indigo’s iconic blue pigment from the indigo paste, powder, or leaves and be ready to use and dye with.  

A hydro vat, also known as a chemical vat, uses hydro or thiourea dioxide, even Rit Color Remover can be used, to reduce the vat. This kind of vat yields the quickest results and works well for all types of fabrics.  

A fructose vat uses fructose powder, a simple sugar derived from plants and fruits, and is also known as a 1-2-3 vat. Perfect for beginners, the 1-2-3 method refers to the recipe used in creating this safe, plant-based vat: one part indigo, two parts lime, and three parts fructose. This is the safest, most traditional method.

An iron vat is reduced with ferrous sulfate. We recommend an iron vat if you are trying to achieve deep dark blues on cotton or other cellulose fibers.

To set up your own vat, visit our For Artisans page for a detailed recipe or follow along with our video tutorial available on Youtube.

How do I dye with Indigo?

There are several ways to dye with indigo using a hydro, iron, or fructose vat. To extract safe, natural pigment, we recommend using our paste or powdered indigo options for traditional dyeing methods.  

For artisans and hobbyists interested in learning natural dyeing with indigo or a new vat method, please view our video tutorials on YouTube or scroll-down on our Recipes page for instructions.  

Is there a difference between the 25% and 40% indigo powder?

The 40% is more concentrated by 60% or 1.6 times. More of our 25% indigo powder is necessary to achieve a similar color impact.

Once the correct amount of concentrate is calculated, we have seen no difference in results between dyeing with 25% and 40% indigo powder. A favorite ingredient of our global fashion brand partners, this natural indigo powder offers our highest purity concentration with industrial-grade performanceWe recommend using Our 40% indigo powder is a favorite ingredient of our global fashion brand partners and contains a higher purity making it convenient to dye higher volumes of product.

What are your shipping terms during COVID?

We typically ship orders within 2-5 days of placing your order. T-shirts will take a bit longer to ship.

For out of stock items please see the product descriptions for exact estimates. Your purchase contributes to the revitalization of traceable plant-based dyes and helps to fight climate change. We work with US farmers to grow indigo as a clean crop alternative, responsibly harvested by us. Our sourced from farmers all over the world, or repurposed from food waste and extracted at our owned facility in Springfield, Tennessee.

For international orders shipping, duties and customs fees are the responsibility of the customer.

How do I substitute your plant-based indigo into my existing indigo vat recipe?

If you know the purity of the indigo you are accustomed to using, use the following formula to calculate how much Stony Creek indigo you will need:

(purity of old indigo)(quantity of old indigo)=(purity of Stony creek indigo)(mass of Stony Creek indigo)

For example, if you are accustomed to using 30 grams of 80% synthetic indigo and you are trying to substitute in 25% pure Stony Creek indigo:

(0.8)(30g)=(0.25)(mass)

24 grams of old indigo = 0.25 (amount of SCC indigo you will need)

24g/.25=96 grams of Stony Creek indigo needed.

Paste may be substituted directly into recipes and used exactly as you would with powder.

How do I use the madder and black walnut dye pastes?

These dye pastes may be used exactly as you would madder root and black walnut hulls, without the extraction and fermentation processes needed. Feel free to experiment and use swatches, or test samples, to ensure you are receiving desired results

Please visit our For Artisans Page for recipes on how to use each dye. There are suggested recipes for every dye we offer.  

If you’ve created any beautiful pieces, tag us @StonyCreekColors on Instagram and use the hashtag #colorwithlife, #stonycreekcolors . We love seeing your results!

Iron vat problems/troubleshooting:

What went wrong? There are a few issues that often occur when using an iron vat. Our lead chemist, Summer, offers some solutions to common problems you may encounter.

“Iron sulfate turned rusty-colored when I dissolved it in water and no reduction is happening in my vat.”

A couple of things could have happened here. The Iron sulfate quickly decomposes when added to water resulting in iron oxides, or rust. If you dissolve the iron sulfate in too hot of water, this accelerates the decomposition. If you wait too long to add the lime, the iron may already have decomposed as well.

If your vat still looks like a rusty mess after sitting sealed for a day, let the indigo settle out, then either start over with a fresh iron vat using the sludge as your indigo source or add Rit Color Remover to reduce the indigo in a hydro vat. The iron will stay insoluble in the hydro vat and you will be able to carefully pour off the reduced indigo solution.

“My iron vat has turned [insert color here]!”

Iron vat appears Green

We recommend adding more iron, starting with 1 tsp and stirring carefully. Add more after 30 min to an hour if the vat is not restored.

Iron vat appears Blue

This means your vat has already oxidized. Add 1 tbsp pickling lime and stir carefully. If the vat is not restored after 30 min to an hour, add 1 tsp iron and 1 tbsp lime, stir, and wait an additional hour. If the vat is still blue, add a liter or two of boiling water, carefully to minimize the introduction of air. If the vat has still not recovered in an hour, it may be best to recover the sludge and use it to make a small hydro vat.

Iron vat appears yellow

This is good! Dye away!