As the textile industry continues its shift towards solving environmental and sustainability challenges, natural colouration technology has come to the forefront as a natural alternative for the dyeing process. Increased interest by both consumers and brands towards balancing aesthetic and sustainable natural alternatives in the textiles industry has spurred innovation in raw materials dye, opening the way for natural colouration company BioDye as well as highlighting the necessity for The Woolmark Company’s raw material dye education and natural dye sourcing from India and surrounding regions.
Natural Colouration and BioDye
Natural fibres such as wool, cotton and silk absorb natural dyes more effectively than synthetic natural fibres, and there are several steps in the dyeing process depending on the natural dye used, fabric and desired colouration. Natural colouration technology is well suited to working with wool textiles as the fibre absorbs natural dyes to produce a superior natural aesthetic quality and look.
Natural dyes can be extracted from materials including plants, minerals, or invertebrates such as insects. Plant-based natural dyes include woad, indigo, saffron and madder, while invertebrate natural dyes include Tyrian purple, cochineal and crimson kermes. Other naturally occurring dyestuff alternatives include bacterial derived and bi-product dyes such as dyes from food waste.
An outstanding example of natural colouration technology at the forefront of innovation is The Woolmark Company’s partner – BioDye. Focusing on sustainable dye processes with minimal impact, BioDye seeds scientific breakthroughs using the best of nature to create 100 per cent natural dyes and biodegradable ingredients through eco-friendly processes.
BioDye colours wool yarn and fabrics with natural dyes using non-toxic mordants, or dye-fixatives, to give the full spectrum of colours that do not fade or bleed when machine washed, while also enhancing UV-absorption. Strengthening the eco-credentials of BioDye’s natural colouration technology is the holistic process that the dyehouse employs. Its dye-yielding plants can be used to re-vegetate degraded forests and provide income to rural women collecting chromogenic leaves in a sustainable manner. The solid waste is then used as fertiliser and the treated wastewater meets parameters for irrigation.
“Natural dyes have been used to dye wool for millennia. At BioDye we are able to use natural dyes to colour raw wool, which has been scoured, in a wide spectrum of deep, fast, bright and mellow shades. We make most of our natural dyes in-house from fruits, leaves, vines and natural by-products to ensure authenticity. We only use alum and iron as mordants. The alum hampers the development of body odour. Natural dyes add to the UV-absorbing character of wool. BioDye treats its wastewater and flue-gas and the sludge produced is composted and used as manure in our orchard. BioDye has been working with Jyotiranjan and Padmaja of Woolmark India to standardise natural dyeing on various types of merino wool, to create a comfortable product that is truly sustainable viz., which leaves no trace behind when the woollen product is composted at the end of its life,” commented Bosco Henriques, Managing Director, BioDye
Dyestuff with less impact has seen a spike in demand within the textile sector over the past years. Jyotiranjan Parida, The Woolmark Company’s Technical Manager in India, works with supply chain partners, brands and innovators to develop novel applications and processes with wool. Jyoti and his team have been proactively working with natural colouration technology suppliers such as BioDye for several years, to test the effectiveness of natural dyes with wool. These investigations have shown that natural dyes readily adhere to the wool fibre and create fabrics with diverse and vibrant colours.
“As the textile industry turns its focus towards solving environmental and sustainable issues, the wool industry is ready to support with practices in place that offer practical solutions to reduce the impact of the textile industry,” says Jyoti, adding, “Due to the shift in consumer sentiment towards more sustainable fibres and the wool industry’s investment in innovation at every stage of the supply chain, wool offers brands numerous opportunities.”
Learn the dyeing of wool
With the rise of interest in natural colouration technology and effectiveness in dyeing raw materials including wool, brands and consumers are undoubtedly shifting their focus towards natural dye alternatives. Exploring how to naturally dye fabrics not only produces high-quality results but also sustainable outcomes for all is an important element in addressing this inevitable pivot.
The Woolmark Company, the global authority on wool, champions this shift to natural colouration and dye through its free online wool education. The Woolmark Learning Centre houses the Science and Technology programme, which consists of a suite of modules addressing the dyeing of wool. Exploring the dyes and recipes specific to pure wool and blends, the side effects of dyeing and associated environmental issues, the dyeing of wool course develops a technical understanding of wool dyeing beginning with how the fibre is prepared through to its evaluation after the dyeing process.
Consisting of ten modules, the dyeing of wool course provides an understanding of wool dyeing and knowledge on how and when wool is dyed. Skills gained throughout the course include knowledge on how to dye wool and blends including the necessary preparation of the fibre and machinery used, evaluation of specific dyeing operations and identification of dyeing side effects and environmental sustainability considerations. Upon completion of the course, a digital badge is offered through online moderator, Credly, for display on digital portfolios.
Similarly, The Woolmark Company expands on the dyeing of wool course by providing access to sourcing wool for dyeing. Accessible through The Wool Lab, the company’s wool sourcing portal, technical specialists can explore the ‘Living’ sub-theme that centres on natural dye options for wool application.
Sourcing Natural Dye in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh
India has consistently been amongst the top three importers and processors of Australian wool, with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh experiencing similar growth. These regions have witnessed development and change in their respective textile industries and engage in many phases of the wool supply chain, from early-stage processors, spinners, weavers and knitters through to brands and retailers.
For more than 50 years, The Woolmark Company has worked with India’s textile industry, with more recent involvement in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Compiling 42 of the region’s best wool spinners, weavers, knitters and specialist suppliers, The Woolmark Company’s India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh Sourcing Guide spotlights opportunities for highly specialised manufacturers. Due to its varied geographic and climatic conditions, India and surrounding regions have rich availability of natural dye raw materials using plant extracts, making way for natural dye organisations, including BioDye, to improve the quality of naturally dyed Merino wool using innovative and sustainable techniques.
In this textile industry’s inevitable shift towards addressing sustainability challenges, Natural Colouration Technology highlights natural alternatives to the dyeing process. Harnessing innovations in raw material dye processes, those such as BioDye enhance textile innovation for a sustainable future. With freely available online dye courses focusing on raw materials, particularly in wool, The Woolmark Company continues to provide leading education and sourcing platforms for manufacturers, suppliers and brands throughout India, its surrounding regions and the globe.