Common Name: Woad Botanical Name: Isatis tinctoria
Woad gives lovely blues but is a more advanced dye to use. You will also need soda ash and either spectralite or sodium dithionite. The color is extracted via a fermentation vat. Instructions are included. You can dye multiple skeins from one vat with each skein getting progressively lighter until the dye bath is exhausted.
The only source of blue colouring throughout history has been indigo, and woad (Isatis tinctoria) was its source in Europe.
Grown in Europe since the Stone Age it has a long association with East Anglia, notably with Boudicca and the Iceni tribe who used woad to colour their faces before going into battle. Further north the Picts also gained notoriety for their body painting with the blue woad dye. The Romans referred to these Ancient Britons as ‘Picts’ as it is Celtic for “painted”.
Woad balls were very valuable and were used for trading. In 1286, foreign woad merchants had a trading agreement with the citizens of Norwich as there had been a dispute over dock charges in London, where they previously traded. During the early 1300s the woad merchants of Amiens were increasing their sales of woad to Norwich because of the expansion of the cloth industry.
In the mid-1580s woad growing was restricted by the government as grain supplies were beginning to be threatened by woad over-production, which was six times more valuable at that time. Elizabeth I overturned this restriction in 1601 but would not allow any processing near her palaces because of its offensive smell.
Asian indigo from Indigofera tinctoria was grown in the colonies and slowly this replaced the use of woad in indigo dye vats. With the imported indigo from South East Asia and the development of synthetic indigo, (which was cheaper to create), the last woad mill in Lincolnshire closed in 1932.
Click on the different category headings to find out more. You can also change some of your preferences. Note that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our websites and the services we are able to offer.
Essential Website Cookies
These cookies are strictly necessary to provide you with services available through our website and to use some of its features.
We provide you with a list of stored cookies on your computer in our domain so you can check what we stored. Due to security reasons we are not able to show or modify cookies from other domains. You can check these in your browser security settings.
Other external services
We also use different external services like Google Webfonts, Google Maps, and external Video providers. Since these providers may collect personal data like your IP address we allow you to block them here. Please be aware that this might heavily reduce the functionality and appearance of our site. Changes will take effect once you reload the page.
Google Webfont Settings:
Google Map Settings:
Google reCaptcha Settings:
Vimeo and Youtube video embeds: