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Natural Dyes: Fig leaves

Dyeing wool with fig leaves

The scent of warm fig leaves is one of my favourites.

It could be a hot day, sun baking down into a courtyard of figs growing in a climate where they are at home.

It could be simmering leaves in cream to make fig leaf ice cream in my kitchen.

It also turns out that it could be dyeing soft woolly yarns in the Studio.

The leaves that I used for this were what I had about - very much end of season, slightly yellowing, certainly not in their prime.

The colours are beautifully gentle but also deep and the scent in The Studio . . . . . just bliss.

natural dye fig leaf

As usual with these weekly dye pots I divided my leaves into two pans and made one alkali to see if there was a difference in colour. With fig leaves there wasn't so I am keeping it very simple here - you are basically making a strong fig leaf tea.

You need

  • Fig leaves - I used 20 leaves to dye 80g wool
  • Dye pan
  • Rain water or tap water that has been left to stand
  • Mordanted wool - I mordant with alum at 8% weight of fibres
  • 2g ferrous sulphate dissolved in 1 litre of water


  • Put the leaves into your dye pan and cover with water.
  • Bring up to a low simmer and keep at that temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Let the pan cool naturally.
  • Remove the leaves and compost them.
  • Add the mordanted wool and gently heat to hand hot, make sure it doesn't boil or you will felt your wool.
  • Keep the temperature steady for fifteen minutes to half an hour and then let it all cool naturally.
  • Remove the wool, rinse and hang to dry.

If you want to modify the colour with iron.

  • Once you have rinsed the dyed skein, squeeze all the water out
  • Put the skein into the tub of water and ferrous sulphate and stir.
  • After 5 to 10 minutes the colour should have shifted.
  • Carefully remove the wool and rinse extremely well then hang to dry.

I always store naturally dyed yarns for a few weeks before giving them a final wash. This curing allows the dye particles to settle and I believe that it gives more colour fastness.

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At Snapdragon Life I help bring the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

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