In simple terms, dye is a substance used to color fiber, yarn or textiles. Originally, dyeing was practiced by weavers themselves, but as time progressed and patterns became more complex, dyeing developed as an independent skilled craft.
Dyes derived from botanical or animal sources are referred to as “natural” or “vegetal” dyes. They are prized in weaving for their even, consistent color which softens with age and does not topically fade.
Some of the most common vegetable dyes are indigo, henna, madder, saffron, walnut,
tea, pomegranate, rhubarb and sumac. Animal dyes came from insects. The burgundy red of cochineal is derived from beetles.
Woad is one of the oldest dyes in civilization and goes back to the Stone Age. The color is a blue pigment similar to indigo but with a softer grey cast. Woad comes from the leaves of the Isatis Tinctoria plant which is grown in Southern Europe. Blue sections of the Bayeaux Tapestries were dyed with Woad and have remained unfazed for a millennium. During the Renaissance, woad was known as “blue de roi”, Kings Blue.