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Sappanwood ~ Getting Started

Natural Dyeing with Sappanwood


Sappanwood is a flowering tree, also known as the East Indian Redwood, native to Southeast Asia and India. The dye is made of the tree itself and is generally used in the form of sawdust.


Sappanwood has a long history of use as a natural dye for textiles, an ornamental tree, with its beautiful appearance, sprays of leaves and yellow flowers.

It also has a long tradition in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, topically and internally, for a multitude of uses, making it highly valuable in trade centuries ago along the Silk Road.


Sappanwood most consistently shows as a true, brilliant red on a range of natural fibers and fabrics. It can be shifted a bit with adjustments to water pH and with alternative mordants. However, with Alum, a gorgeous, traditional red is easily created.


Sappanwood needs a pre-mordant for long-lasting results (wash fastness and light fastness). Alum or Alum in combination with a Tannin works well for this purpose.

In addition, the use of Iron, before dyeing or afterward, shifts Sappanwood to a gorgeous moody wine color.


Sappanwood can be used at .5 : 1 ratio with the richest and darkest colors presenting when using a 1 : 1 weight ratio (weight of natural dye to weight of fiber/fabric).

This means that 40 grams will dye approximately 40 grams (dry weight) of fiber/fabric. It will continue to dye in lighter shades till the dye has been used up. Use less for a lighter hue.


A great way to access more dye color is to heat the Sappanwood for 1+ hours over moderate heat. Then, let sit overnight before straining the next day for use.