Wild Colours natural dyes home

Change text size?

close menu

Wild Colours 


Handmade cards with natural dyes

Handmade cards

Wild Fibres - natural fibres for felting, spinning & dyeing!

Wild Fibres - natural fibres for felting, spinning & dyeing

Wild Paper handmade paper for printing, artists & gift wrap

Wild Paper - handmade paper for computer printing, artists & wrapping presents


        Wild Colours - Exciting colours from Natural Dyes


Wild Colours natural dyes > blue dye plants > dyeing with alkanet

Alkanet (Alkanna tinctorium)

True Alkanet (Alkanna tinctoria or Alkanna matthioli)
Alkanna tinctoria in flower (Jean Tosti) - a blue natural dye
Alkanet can refer to two different plants of the borage family and there is often some confusion in the literature as to which is being used. Alkanna tinctoria is the true alkanet and its thick, fleshy red-maroon roots produce a purple or red dye used in textiles and soap.

1. Biology of alkanet

2. Cultivation of alkanet

3. Dyeing with alkanet

4. Dyeing wool with alkanet

5. Dyeing cotton with alkanet

6. False alkanet (opens new page)

1. Biology of Alkanet
Alkanet is a perennial herb and a native to Southern Europe. Unlike false alkanet which grows as a tall bush, true alkanet sprawls on the ground. It has small blue flowers and grey-green leaves.

2. Cultivation of Alkanet
Alkanet seeds are very fine and difficult to germinate. Both plants and seeds are hard to source. Alkanet needs a warm and dry climate to grow, thriving on sandy soils.

Buy Alkanet dye

3. Dyeing with Alkanet
The alkanet dye, Alkannin, produced from dried alkanet roots, produces lavender and purple colours when simmered in water. It is not very soluble in water and the colour can fade with washing or overexposure to sunlight.

4. Dyeing Wool with Alkanet
Soak 100 grams of alkanet in water for at least a week. Simmer the roots in water for an hour in a ventilated area, as the roots can produce an unpleasant smell. Strain the dye liquor, add 100 grams of mordanted wool and simmer for another hour.

5. Dyeing Cotton with Alkanet
Follow the same procedure as for dyeing wool but add a teaspoon or two of soda ash to raise the pH. This makes the alkanet more soluble (a high pH can damage wool, but not cotton).

A more expensive alternative is to soak the roots in cheap rum or gin, rather than water, for a couple of weeks as this helps to extract the pigment. Make sure you mark the container clearly with ‘do not drink’. You can then dilute this well with water, simmer for an hour and then add mordanted wool or cotton.

Alkanet is also used in soap making as the pigment dissolves better when steeped in oils. The resulting colour depends on the pH of the soap and concentration of alkanet and varies from pale lavender to purple.

Top of page


How to contact us:-
Wild Colours natural dyes, Studio 319, Scott House, The Custard Factory, Gibb St, Birmingham B9 4DT, UK

Contact Teresinha for enquiries
Tel:    +44 (0)7979 770865
email: info@wildcolours.co.uk

[search] [Contact us] [Ordering] [safety] [Terms] [International] [About us] [Links]

UK Shipping 4.95p on orders up to 100 & free over 100 in UK
[shipping 2.95 on very small orders up to 2.95 in value]

Delivery to Europe + rest of World click here
Overseas orders sent by Tracked Airmail

Special & Next Day Delivery

Updated on 22 April 2024
Website & photos by Mike Roberts ©2006-24 Wild Colours natural dyes


Site Search Site Search