Urban Dyeing

The info on this page has been written to complement my Urban Dyeing Recipes zine! 

Please note that these recipes and the info on foraging are intended for personal use only and NOT for commercial activity.




Precautions must be taken with dyeing, even when using plants or food waste. Please be aware of the following important safety information.

  • Only use your dyeing equipment for dyeing. Do not use it for food preparation or cooking. Or any other purposes.
  • Keep all dyeing ingredients in sealed containers, with childproof locks if there are children or pets about.
  • If using powders or dry chemicals, please wear a suitable mask to cover your mouth and nose, wear eye protectors, and ensure that your workspace is well ventilated if working indoors.
  • Use gloves when handling powders or dry chemicals.
  • Do not leave simmering pans unattended.
  • Cover simmering pans and avoid inhaling the steam from the pans. Lift lids tipped away from you to avoid inhaling the steam.
  • Cover any liquids that are left overnight even if left outside. You don’t want to find a frog or the neighbour’s cat in your bucket the next morning!
  • Please dispose of all dyeing residues safely, taking note of any local environmental hazard laws. I put my plant and food waste residues on a compost heap which will fertilise soils away from edible or harvestable plants.



    Make sure you know what you are looking for & how to identify it. Be aware of any poisonous plants in your area!

    In many cultures, it’s fundamental to first request harvesting permission from the plant itself. It’s also considered good practice to leave the first plant specimen you come across, and only harvest from the second onwards. If you can only find one specimen, then leave it and search elsewhere.

    Before you cut, have a good look at the plant and see if it’s healthy. If not, move on. Only take what you need and never take more than a tenth from one plant. 

    Foraging info in Scotland can be found at: Nature Scot



    • Cloth bag or basket & secateurs or forager’s knife to collect dyeing plant materials
    • 5 litre stainless steel pan
    • Long metal tongs
    • Large metal sieve
    • 2 litre plastic or metal measuring jug
    • 5 litre plastic tub with lid
    • Measuring spoons e.g. 5ml & 10ml
    • Electronic scales
    • Chopping board & knife
    • Scissors
    • Cloths to wipe up
    • Face masks, eye protectors & gloves
    • Heat source, either your hob inside; or if you’re dyeing outside, a camping stove or hot plate.



      WoF means “weight of fibre” and is the standard measuring unit used in dyeing. If you are dyeing 100g of yarn, then 100%WoF will be 100g, 50% will be 50g etc. So, if you are going to mordant your yarn using 15%WoF of alum, you would use 15% of the dry weight of your yarn. The table below should help: 

      Dry weight of yarn (g)

      15% WoF (g)











      If you have soft water, i.e. it doesn’t contain much calcium or magnesium, then you may want to add chalk to the dyebath when using plants such as weld which like chalky conditions. The addition of chalk will help “brighten” the colour you achieve.

      A good website to use to check your water in the UK can be found at: Aqua Cure



      • When you are dyeing, have a bucket of cold water on standby for emergencies. You can’t predict when accidents are going to happen, but you can prepare to mitigate them.
      • Soak yarn overnight in cold water before dyeing the next day.
      • Never add cold yarn to a hot pan of water, or rinse steaming yarn in icy cold water as may cause fibres to felt.
      • Cover pans left overnight with a lid.



        Happy dyeing!

        Sarah x

        20th March 2023