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Natural colors

Human beings have always known how to obtain colors from nature. Since ancient times, dyes have been extracted from clay, minerals, plants and animals.

Broadly speaking, color substances can be divided to natural colors and synthetic, or artificially produced colors. Color substances can further be differentiated regarding whether the surface is colored or whether the color extends to the fibre of the material. The former are called pigments and they are used e.g. in painting. The latter are dyes.

Industrially produced colors can be considerably safer to use than natural pigments. During the history, producing colors has been a hazardous occupation. For instance, in the 16th century Spain, criminals were sentenced to work either as slaves in boats or in Almaden cinnabar mines. In the mines, heavy metals were absorbed into their blood and caused painful death in a few years. The production of colors was not harmless to artists either. Sometimes they had to handle mercury and lead, sometimes toxic compounds were released.

Fortunately, nature offers organic dyes which can be made and used virtually without concern.

Nature in North Karelia provides dyers a countless number of yellow, green, brown and grey shades. Dyeing with natural colors offers surprises, because the dye result is influenced by many factors: the time the plants have been collected, the use of mordants and the quality of the yarn being dyed.

Birch as a dye plant >>

Wild plants provide a variety of colors >>