Dying Techniques


India is known for its obsession with colour. Colour is particularly important in India’s cultural history. Through many techniques of textile embellishment, and dying with vegetable, mineral or animal resources, artisans have developed a wide variety of colour options.

azo free vat

A method that uses a bucket or vat which require a mordant to set the cloth. Cotton, wool, and some synthetic fibres can be dyed using this method. Fabric is then hung on bamboo racks to dry (see figure 47). Students worked with dyers in Pushkar and Delhi to match their colours perfectly to complement their collection.

bandhani tie-dye

Originating in Rajisthan, this was worn by royalty 1,500 years ago (Bhandari 2005, p.38). It is a simple dying technique using thread as the resist. Mostly used on fine fabrics such as muslins and chiffons.


Indigo vat

Natural indigo is cultivated in a vat of living fermentation and does not require a mordant. It is cared for on a daily basis and can live indefinitely if cared for correctly. The process of dying with indigo is slow. When immersing a natural white cloth such as cotton or silk the indigo will react with the fibre. Pending the required depth, the cloth may be immersed a few times. Once the fabric is removed from the vat and hits the air, the cloth is green and slowly changes to a deep indigo colour. Students witnessed a demonstration by artisan Mr Ram Babu. All students engaged in the process with their mud resist samples.

Mud resist samples being immersed in vat.
Mud resist samples being immersed in vat.

Natural dying

This method goes back as far as the Indus Valley civilisation (3000BC-1500BC). The knowledge of natural dying and fixing agents, known as mordants, are used including, tumeric, henna, indigo, pomegranate, and iron filings is still relevant 5000 years on.

Sample pot dying with natural dyes at Kullu KarisKullu Dyehma.
Sample pot dying with natural dyes at Kullu KarisKullu .