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4| Biochromes


Colors Newton'light refraction and Goethe'color swatch Colors "Living colors" at Japan house London

This are some of my inspirations and researches:

  • Michel Garcia, natural dyer in France
  • Sachio Yoshioka, ancestral natural dyer in Japan
  • Dominique Cardon, Research Director at C.N.R.S, specialist in the history and archeology of textiles and dyeing
  • Buaisou, Indigo dyers in Japan
  • Takarajima Senkou, natural dyeing in Japan
  • TEXTO, at Casa Pedregal, Mexico city (event)
  • Living colors at Japan house london (exhibition)

But also my own experience with indigo dyeing wool a few years ago- using an organic vat and following Michel Garcia's recipe (1,2,3) - To make a very large spectrum of indigo blues:

Ingredients ©CharlotteBracho-Making indigo - 2019 Ingredients ©Making indigo - 2019


First, we had to make a plan because we wanted to experimente a lot of colors and fabrics. There were plant and animal textiles with different properties (silk, silk organza, coton, wood,…) see excel board.

TIPS : when the fabric looks used or has marks, put it at the end in the bath and without the other fabrics because it might have consequences on the dying result. Be careful with rust marks (iron).

Ingredients Ingredients

We decided to do 6 baths, with 6 different dying stuff. We grouped different samples to test in the different baths. Then, we weighted different sample groups to calculate different ingredients which we needed to do mordanting baths.

  • Madder : 283g of fibers
  • Onion: 194g of fibers
  • Leaf carrot : 248g of fibers
  • Avocado : 209g of fibers
  • Nettle : 220g of fibers
  • Anato : 267g of fibers

Textiles for mordant

6 Baths of 18th Fabrics
Fabrics Carrots leaf Onions Madder Annatto Nettle
Weight 248gr 194gr 283 gr 267 gr 220gr
Carded Wool x x x x xx
Co canvas weird shape x x
Light Co canvas x xx xx
Pillowcase Co x
Embroidered sheet Co/linen x x x x x
Wool stamen x x x x x
Satin of silk x x x x
Organza x x x xx
Raw silk x x x xx
Thick Co canvas x x x x x
Pongee silk x x x x x
Soft Co canvas small square x x x x x
Soft Co canvas big square x x x xx x
Baptiste Co xx x x xx
Tea towel Co x
Co node x
Baby bodie x
Swaddle x x


Recipes :

1st mordancing bath : Carrot + Onion > 452g of fibers 20% of the weight in alum :

90g alum Half of the alum weight in sodium carbonate : 45g Vinegar 1L = 100g of alum : 90cl vinegar And water 3L water = 100g fibers : ~ 8L water

2nd mordanting bath : Madder + Anato > 550g of fibers 20% of the weight in alum :

110g alum And water

3rd mordancing bath : Nettle + Avocado > 507g

500ml vinegar 20% of the weight in alum : 100g alum 50g calcimine? / lime (chaux) Water

Process : We have distributed and soaked fabric groups in the three baths. Fabrics in the baths remained a minimum 45min.



Then we weighed the different dying ingredients to prepare and make dyeing baths.

Quantities to add according : - Dry dying stuff : 100% of fiber weight - Wet dying stuff : More of fiber weight - Dying extract : 10% of fiber weight

Weight of different dying stuff for our baths :

  • Leaf carrot : 75g wet and 125g dry
  • Onion : 44g dry (because colour is very intense)
  • Madder : 28,3 g (extract)
  • Anato : 100gr dry (total weight of what we have)
  • Nettle : 350 g
  • Avocado : 210g dry

Except the madder, the different dyeing stuff was immersed in hot water to make the decoction. Baths remained one all night in hot water to activate the dye colour.

1 hour minimum of maceration is needed (the more time the better) In our case we left the baths overnight, except for the madder, which is an extract. That we did the same day. Note: Do NOT boil the decoction/maceration

DYE process



  1. Filter the decoction (it’s possible to add water to the decoction so that the textile are soaked enough)
  2. Raise the temperature of the dye to around 45 °
  3. Once at 45 °, we put the fabrics into the bath
  4. Then continue raising the temperature slowly/gradually to around 60/70 °
  5. Once the bath temperature is around 60/70 ° - time/count 45min before taking off the textiles of the bath

Important notes : - when filtering the bath we kept the ingredients for future experimentations with inks/pigments - we placed the different ingredients on cardboard and let them dry, we grinded some, as carot’s leaf and nettle, directly before drying - Stir the textiles regularly in the bath - Textiles should not be too tight in the bath, and be easily submerged so that the dye can act evenly on the fibers. In order to have a more uniform shade and result

Process and time followed for each bath:

Time in the dyeing bath
Ingredient IN 70° Minimum Time (45min) OUT TOTAL time in the bath after 70°
Leaf carrot 11:50 12:35 13:20 14:10 1H35
Onion 11:15 12:00 12:45 13:40 1H40
Madder 12:51 (decoction at 11:30) 13:35 14:20 15:20 1H45
Annatto 11:00 11:45 12:30 14:20 2H35
Nettle 11:55 12:40 13:25 15:25 2H45
Avocado 11:30 12:15 13:00 13:40 1H35

Textiles for mordant Textiles for mordant


Wool and silk are delicate fabrics so they need to be washed with attention to avoid thermal shock. In general, fabrics have to be well washed with clean and clear water.

We hung dying fabrics outside so they dried super quickly. It was beautiful to see the result with the light of the sun. One of the best parts of the process :)

Textiles for mordant Textiles for mordant


When the fabrics were dry, we took pictures of every pieces. Then we made compositions out of it.

Last step was to organise and cut a piece of every fabrics with the different dyes in order to put it on a book. One per fabricacademers and one for the TexileLab.

For not making mistakes we drew our last board:

  • Dye

  • Fabrics names (fr/eng:)

  • Piece of fabric

Textiles for mordant Textiles for mordant

Personal Swatch sample

Organizing samples

I'm currently organizing all the samples - comme back in a few days to see the final result:

Textiles for mordant


A way to modify the obtained colours is to modify them with Iron. This will give you beautiful greys and khakis depending on which plant you used first.

Recipe for a solution with 100% Iron

  • 200g Iron (sulfate)
  • 2L Vinegar
  • 100g Sodium carbonate

Be careful it blows up if you add the Sodium carbonate entirely ! You need to do it step by step. To use it for modifying the fibers' colours, you need to dilute this solution and make it with a maximum concentration of 10% Iron otherwise it will damage the fibers.

For example, if you made 1L of solution 100% Iron and you want to have 10%, you need to dilute 100mL of Iron 100% in 900mL of water (at room temperature).

Textiles for mordant


We made pigments from the red onion dye bath. Pigments can be used for inks, biomaterials, oil paint… Pigments dissolve very well in oil but not in water.

This is the recipe :

Ingredients : 200mL of the dye bath, 20g of alum, 5g of sodium carbonate

put 200mL of dye bath in a jar dissolve 20g of alum in hot water in a pot dissolve 5g of sodium carbonate in hot water in an other pot put the alum solution in the jar (with the dye bath) add slowly the sodium carbonate in the jar, be careful because it may go up let the jar oppen for 2 hours

The solution will separate into 2 phases, one liquid and one solid. After 2 hours, it must be filtered (we used a coffee filter), then dried and grinded. We didn’t have time enough to grind it because it wasn’t dry.

Diane showed us how to make ink from red cabbage. She immersed it and boiled it in hot water for 1h. Then, we took some of the liquid and put it on paper : it gives a purple. Then, we tried to add different elements in the ink to change the colour :

iron (from steel wool) : it becomes blue alum : it lightened the colour vinegar : it becomes pink sodium carbonate : it becomes green

There is another way to make ink with 90% ethanol that we didn’ tried. For instance it works very well with turmeric, we have an example of this ink in Oullins.

We also tried to make screen printing ink with guar gum. We mixed 200mL of madder dye bath with 20g of guar gum and we heated it up. This experiment was not successful : the mixture was too thick and viscous, moreover guar gum didn’t melt properly.

Textiles for mordant Textiles for mordant


Screen-printing paste = extract + water + gum + oxalic acide (anti-precipitant) + mordanting agent Preparing the gum

tragacanth gum : 30g for 1L hot water guar gum: 20g for 1L hot water

Preparing the paste (for 100mL)

1g (2%) to 5g(5%) of extract | 50mL hot water | 5g alum | 0,5g oxalic acide | 50 mL gum

For textiles made of cellulose, you need to add a third of the volume of beaten egg whites to the paste. Then, after screen printing with this paste, you have to fix the screen printed pattern by putting the fabric in steam for at least one hour. Note : If you are working on textiles which are already naturally dyed, you can add Iron to the paste (with the same extract). The screen printed pattern will appear the same colour but darker. Note : this paste isn't opaque ! The chosen colour will blend with the background's colour. For instance, if you screen print blue on a yellow fabric, the screen printed pattern will turn out to be green. Note : the screen printed patterns are printed into the fibers (not only on the surface)


To be ready for the week of biomaterials, we started our Kombucha.

We used a classical recipe with black tea to start with and later on we might make other recipes.

So here is the recipe:

For 1L of water - 1,5 to 3 gr of tea ( we used black tea,but it can be any tea, depending what color of material you want) - 100 gr. of sugar - Vinegar from 0 to 100ml (depending on PH of your liquid) - Scoby mother

In our case as we want a little bigger of a piece of Kombucha material, so we made 7 L of water.

For 7L of water - 21 gr of black tea (+ filter bag or tissu) - 700 gr of sugar - Vinegar - we added around 100 ml of vinegar untill it got to PH 3 - Scoby mother - 15cm ø

Steps: Prepare all the ingredients, tools, utensils that you need at your workspace.

First we sterilise our equipment, especially the tray where you gonna grow your material and make sure that all is clean as Kombucha can get contaminated by various microorganisms around us.

We boil water in a pot and add tea into it and keep boiling a bit, in our case we didn't have extra pots, so we added boiling water directly in a plastic tray and then we added tea in a coffee filter bag closed with a thread that leaves don't go all over.

And then we add sugar and mix it well until it dissolves, the best to do is to add it while its hot, it will work better.

Now its time to let it cool down until room temperature, for us it took almost 2 hours for 7L of water. If we add Scoby into hot liquid it will most likely kill it, so we better wait.

When our liquid has reached the room temperature we meausure the PH with PH strips or PH meter, french tap water meauseres around PH 7. So we added around 100 ml of Vinegar until it got to PH 3.

And now when we set up good sweet, acicid conditions we can add our Mother Scoby, make sure you do it with gloves or desinfected hands.

We cover it with thin breatable cotton fabric that insects and dust can't get in, put elastic around that its well covered and can be easily open for our weekly check-ups.

Place it in a warm (ideally 30' degrees Celsium) temperature, we put it on a specail matrass for germination of seeds. The speed of growth depends on the temperature of the ambiance.

And the last important thing - don't move the tray while the Kombucha is growing, keep it in a dedicated place. The desired Kombucha material will appear in about few days - week as a thin layer. The second part of the Kombucha travel will be later on the Biomaterials week.

Thank you !

Last update: 2022-01-14