Bengala Dyes by Guest Artist Cathy Wycliff

Bengala Dyes by Guest Artist Cathy Wycliff

Our guest artist today is Cathy Wycliff aka Luvswool.
Over the past couple of years, I have been experimenting with different kinds of dyes. I started with Wilton icing gels, playing it safe for my first experience. I moved on to acid dyes, with the encouragement of Forum members, and I was delighted with the bright, beautiful colors.

Then I tried dyeing with natural plants, like madder, logwood, and osage orange. I ended up with some beautiful dyed wool. Marilyn and I brewed an indigo vat last summer, dyeing everything from lace curtains to wool and T-shirts. This summer I experimented with eco-printing and had some success, but a few failures as well.

When I studied Saori weaving in Minneapolis recently, my instructor, Chiaki O’Brien, also introduced me to Bengala dyes.

They are natural dyes made from the soil in Japan. I was excited to try yet another type of dyeing. I had the trial set of three colors–pink, orange and gray. I liked the idea of natural dyes, already prepared in liquid form, and non-toxic with no boiling water and no mordants. Following is my pictorial on two sessions of Bengala dyes.

I dyed some cotton, linen, silk ribbon and a silk scarf to see if there were any difference on how each dyed.

Session 1

IMG_1249 IMG_1250 IMG_1253 IMG_1254
Session 2

IMG_1306 IMG_1307 IMG_1308 IMG_1311 IMG_1312

If anyone is interested in using these dyes, they are available for purchase from Saori instructors throughout the world.

In the USA, you will find them here:

Otherwise, you can google “Bengala dyes” and find offerings from other parts of the world, including Japan, where they are made. I know for sure that Australia, Canada and the UK have the dyes available from Saori instructors. The dyes are particularly
useful when dyeing with young children.

Thanks Cathy for sharing your experience with us about these Bengala dyes!

15 thoughts on “Bengala Dyes by Guest Artist Cathy Wycliff

  1. Very interesting! Lovely colours too. Had a look at the website and it’s good that children can do it safely isn’t it?

    1. Thanks, Lyn. The results are subtle and the dyeing is easy and safe for children. Nice to have another option besides Kool-Aid!

  2. In Session 1, the dyes were mildly diluted with a little water. You see the fabric soaking in the bowl of plain water prior to dyeing. You see the subtle colors on the silk, cotton and ribbon. I decided to try for more intense coloring, so on the following day.

    In Session 2, I used the dyes directly onto the fabric with no dilution, although the fabric was wet.
    I stuffed the fabric into small jars and drizzled the dyes. I bulldog-clipped the silk scarf to form shibori patterns. The most intense color came from dyeing a high-quality, high-thread count cotton bath mat with pink/orange combination of dyes. (see photo of cloth hanging on deck).

  3. Some very nice, delicate colours Cathy and thank you for sharing. I looked for these on the uk site, but ‘Page error’ kept coming up. Will have to try again another time.

    1. The Bengala dye colors are delicate, and I am glad you enjoyed the blog post. The dyes are not actually sold by every Saori studio owner. There are three ladies in the UK who are studio owners but I did not see the dyes for sale on their sites. They are a bit pricey but quite lovely.

  4. You got nice colours. Having natural safe dyes for kids to try is a great. I had a look at there site. the ingredients in all the dyes seem to be exactly the same. I wonder if it a translation problem. They also say to indigo dye exactly the same way the use the pigment dye. That doesn’t seem right to me. Did you try any of the dyes with their pre-treatment?

    1. Thanks, Ann. I don’t know how they handle the indigo dye, but my three colors were not pre-treated. There were two sets of directions–one which came with the tiny bottles and one that was given to me by my instructor. Neither specified how much water to add as a dilution, which is why I did two sessions. I simply used less water the second time.

  5. I find it fascinating that these dyes are made from muds But then why not, I’m sure if we researched it the Native American and many other cultures have probably used similar methods to color their clothing and to paint with. Thanks for sharing your dyeing journey with us. It seems to be a hot topic on the forum lately. 🙂

    1. It is always fascinating to see what kind of dyes are available around the world. I know for sure there is an African tribe which uses mud dyes, and it is believed that “mineral” dyes go back to the earliest cave paintings.

    2. I was going to say the same, Cathy, I know Australian aborigines and indigenous New Zealanders use earth pigments. I think all the original ochre, sienna and umber colours are from earth pigments.

  6. Thanks for the further explanation Cathy in regards to Zed’s questions. I was about to ask the same thing. How long do you leave the dyes on before rinsing? Will they dye wool and other animal fiber?

  7. You are very welcome, Ruth. The dyes actually take immediately but will darken as you “knead” the dye into the cloth…so about 10 minutes only, then rinsed. They are colorfast once they have dried.

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