Natural dyeing in the Provence

If you are adept at natural dyeing and you’ve never been to Couleur Garance, this is the place for you. Nestled in the small village of Lauris, in the south of France, Couleur Garance is an association managing the conservation of dye-producing plants. Its garden has more than 250 species of plants. This unique garden is devoted to plants used for natural dyes and is also a horticultural resource for chemists, natural dye researchers and botanists. It was founded in 1998 by Michel Garcia, a botanist, chemist, dyer and naturalist. Couleur Garance offers also some workshops, courses and events. It is situated on the terraced gardens of Lauris Castle (18th century) overlooking the Durance Valley. (

I’ve just spent a week there where I had a chance to learn more about natural dyeing and specifically about many plants I never used before. Little did I know all the information I was going to receive. The five-day professional course was filled with material based on colour, plants, history, chemistry and more. This was a fantastic and intense week filled with experiments and discoveries taught by such a friendly and expert dyer Marianne. It is impossible to summarize the week in a blog post.
I’ve included some photos on some of the steps and plants we used. From fabric preparation, to mordants, to yellows, reds, dark colours, tanins and indigo, we probably used around twenty types. When naturally dyeing, there are specific steps to follow that can’t be bypassed if you want to get a rich colour from the plant and a colour that lasts. It was a very enjoyable course in a friendly atmosphere

Preparing fabrics with mordants (linen, cotton, silk, wool muslin…)

Yellows and oranges: Reseda (weld), Sophora (Pagoda tree), Nerprun (Buckthorn), Coreopsis (Garden Tickseed), Wallnut leaves, Fig leaves, Carrot leaves…

Reds, pink and violets: Garance (madder), Pernambouc (Brazil wood used by violin bow makers), Bois de campêche (logwood), Carthame des teinturiers (safflower), Avocado…

Tanins give beautiful warm colours. Oak gallnuts, pomegranate, walnut tree leaves, Sumac leaves, Myrobalan, Chestnut tree bark and leaves…
Tataki Zome printing technique: transferring leaves onto fabric with tanin filled leaves

I won’t forget the lunches in the garden where we shared the local food, fruits and cheeses and even a glass of wine. I am lucky to be returning in the next couple of weeks to do a course on printing with natural dyes, a technique that I particularly love. I’ll be sharing the experience with you in a next post.


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