This webpage is a copy of the comments received on a blog post on Ali’s original website, The blog post itself is now at “Experimenting with dyeing flax fibre”.

Comments on “Experimenting with dyeing flax fibre”

  1. georgie Says:

    what was the name of the red? because i loved the the way the colours mix together.

    and awsome taste 2

  2. Ali Says:

    Hi Georgie

    The dye I used here was Teri Dyes Red. As you may know, the flax fibre takes the dye differently from flax strips so, if you use the Teri Dyes Red on flax strips, the result will probably be another variation of the colour.

  3. Hinehuia Says:

    Tena Koe Ali,
    I don’t get much time to experiment and at this time I am thoroughly enjoying colours. I work with flax and have been using Rit dye. The mordant is 1 cup of salt and my dyeing is colourful but dull. It has no sheen to it as I have seen in other flax kete. I am wondering whether it’s the salt and whether a mordant is necessary. I have purchased some Dylon to try soon and is a mordant necessary for the Dylon. I came across your site while trying to find info on mordants. I appreciate your site and knowledge. Na Hinehuia

  4. Ali Says:

    Hi Hinehuia

    I’m not entirely sure why some dyed flax loses its sheen while other dyed flax retains a sheen, but I have noticed that boiled flax that has dried off before it is dyed usually ends up with a matte finish. In other words, if you’re boiling the flax before dyeing it, it may be best to dye the flax while it is still moist from boiling. Also, if you’re dyeing the flax after weaving it, I’d suggest you dye it while the flax is still fresh. (Incidentally, I don’t usually dye a piece after it has been woven as I’m not keen on the way the dye doesn’t always fully penetrate the weaving).

    I’ve also noticed that white marks often appear when boiling flax, and I think this is the natural waxes in the flax — that give it its sheen — separating out from the leaf surface. So perhaps the loss of sheen may be to do with the length of time the flax is in the boiling pot and also the variety of flax, as some flax varieties are much waxier than others. How long are you boiling the flax for? Perhaps sheen is also affected by wiping each flax strip straight after taking it out of the dye pot, which may redistribute the loosened wax across the leaf surface, if it hasn’t already become fully disconnected from the leaf surface.

    I stopped using mordant some time ago, because the dye brands listed on my Dyeing page — Teri, Dylon or Rit — seem to take well to the flaxes I’ve used without a mordant. However, it may be a different matter with the particular variety of flax you’re using. At a guess, using a mordant may reduce the loss of sheen by reducing the time needed for boiling, so I may experiment with mordant again. Nonetheless, I think it would be worthwhile for you to try using Rit dye without a mordant. Let me know how you get on.

    I have used a spray-on polyurethane for flax jewellery, which gives it a sheen, so you may like to try this too.

    Your question is very topical, because I’m currently in the planning stage of checking out a number of dyeing materials and techniques to try to retain the sheen, or to restore it after dyeing — for the sake of a booklet on flax flowers that I’m finishing off at the moment. Unfortunately I’m also in the process of moving house — which I just interrupted to tutor a flax weaving workshop at Mt Somers! — so I haven’t been able to give this the time I’d like, nor to respond to your query as quickly as I would have liked. In short, I’m not in a position to give you any really useful tips on this right now, but as soon as I get some results, I’ll put up a blog post on the topic.

  5. Hinehuia Says:

    Tena Koe Ali mo your prompt response and sharing of your knowledge.
    I will try the Rit without the cup full of salt and anticipate the sheen.
    I have even tried i cup of vinegar and 1 tbsp salt which resulted in the slightest of sheen.

  6. huria Says:

    Tena koe
    I have read a couple of your articles and found them very informative.As a new weaver I soak up anything and everything I find about weaving harakeke.I would like to experiment with natural resources for dying and wonder what sort of salt one would use and the quantities needed to set the dye? Is there another mordant apart from the natural ones that I cannot access?

  7. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Huria

    I haven’t done much dyeing with natural products but it’s on the long list of things to do in the future! However I do have some suggestions for you.

    Plain salt is best. Additives, such as iodine, may affect the colour. I suggest you try using half to one cup of salt to about 4-5 litres of water. If this doesn’t work, then use more salt.

    There is a lot of information on the web about different sorts of mordants. The most common mordants that are used in dyeing are mineral salt mordants, such as alum or tin or iron, which are not readily available and you need to be careful when you use them. You could try using alternative mordants such as iron nails or an aluminium pot or even stale urine instead of these.

    I suggest you experiment with your dyeing and keep notes of what you do so that you learn how you can get different colours and can change quantities if you need to. Let me know how you get on.

  8. Rangiwaiti Says:

    Kia Ora Ali

    You said that you were in the process of finishing a booklet on Flax Flowers, i would be very interested in purchasing it, if it is complete.

  9. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Rangiwaiti

    The booklet isn’t complete just yet and I’m hesitant to predict a date for the completion because I’ve been wrong in my predictions before. However, I am on the endy bits and have started working on the cover photo today so hopefully it’s not too far away. I’ll add your name to my database and let you know when it’s available.

  10. Izzie Says:

    Kia ora Ali,
    I’m quite a novice weaver, but love it and would like to explore with colour a bit. I haven’t dyed flax before. I love the look of dyed flax but would like to work with natural dyes. I’ve heard that boiling onion skins can produce a nice deep brown on natural fibres, but is there anything that you know of or have experimented with that can produce other colours?
    Thanks, Izzie

  11. Ali Says:

    Hi Izzie

    I haven’t experimented with any of the natural dyes but some of the books listed on my Reviews page do have information about the traditional dyes and I think Maori Weaving by Erenora Puketapu-Hetet is one of them although I’m not completely sure now.

  12. Lee Ashford-Nuku Says:

    Hi, Im keen to purchase your book when completed about flax flowers. I’m in Palmerston North and our roopu would love to learn how to make some really nice putiputi which hopefully are a little different from our normal lillies and rosebuds.


  13. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Lee

    I’ve added your name to the database for the Book and will let you know when it’s ready.

  14. Moe Tonga Says:

    Can you add me to your database for your book aswel


  15. Brenda Matthews Says:

    Teenaa koe Ali, thank you for your website, well layed out, easy to follow, and so much information. Arohanui, brenda

  16. Ali Says:

    Hi Moe
    I’ve added your name to the book database.

  17. Geraldine Oliver Says:

    awhitu wearable isn’t quite up and running yet. What I’m looking for is a supply of flax fabric which could be made into tote bags. I guess the difference would be the tighter weave and finer finish than traditional kete. I want to screen print the fabric after the bags are made.
    Does any commercially woven flax fibre exist?
    Thanks for your help.

  18. Ali Says:

    Hi Geraldine

    There have been some people experimenting with making fabric from flax fibre but I’m not sure how advanced the experiments are. I suggest you see if you can contact Rangi Te Kanawa who may be able to help.

  19. Alicia Says:

    Hello everybody,
    I am looking for a flax fibre that can be woven into a korowai cloak. Does anyone know of any soft, warm, luxurious flax fibres out there?

  20. Lorraine James Says:

    Hi I have no experience in dyeing. If the fresh flax is dark green how does it dye to the great colours shown in your book? Is there something you do to it before dyeing?

  21. Ali Says:

    Hi Lorraine

    Although flax is green, it does dye well for most colours, from the raw green state, if you use chemical dyes. The colour can look quite dark immediately after dyeing and it does take a few days for the flax to dry completely for the true colour to show. I’ve found that the lighter colours, yellow for example, work better if you boil and dry the flax a little before dyeing. Check out the full instructions on my Dyeing flax page for more information on dyeing.

  22. manu Says:

    hi are you able to e-mail me a color chart thanks this would be great

  23. waharoa Says:

    Kia Ora Ali.
    I have just stumbled across your site and I also am a lover of harakeke putiputi, I would be very interested in purchasing your book on how to create different, types of putiputi.. I live in Australia and have access to our Nz flax. could you please let me know what I need to do. thanx Waharoa

  24. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Waharoa

    Thanks for your interest in my book. I am able to accept payment using currency other than New Zealand dollars through PayPal and so I’ve just sent you a PayPal invoice.

  25. Moana O'Sullivan Says:

    Kia ora Ali

    I would appreciate it if you could add my to the database for your harakeke flowers book.

    I’m a novice to both working with harakeke and to working with dyes about shortly about to break into it! Look forward to you book.

  26. Ali Says:

    Hi Moana

    My book Weaving Flowers from New Zealand Flax is now published and in its second edition. You can purchase it directly from me and all the details about ordering it are on the Shop page of this website.

  27. jasmine Says:

    i am a weaver from northland and haave been reading threw the comments and thought i could help.I have been working with rite dye for a long time and dont reccommend dylon etc it doesnt take well to the harakeke the old ones used to be ok for puputi but they have changed the formula so i would stick with just rite .
    Depending on you flax u can usually feel how waxy they are soft or firm .if u stip your flax and leave it for a day mayb 2 in the winter and then soften just before u dye it making sure your pot is hot .{the old preseving pots are the best ]. dont overload as u will not get an even dye u can add a few drops of vanilla oil . making sure u rinse straight after with cold water and making sure u dry each strip before hanging for a day by there tips so they dry evenly in the bunch.If u bend the flax and on the fibre side there is no moisture coming out it is ready to be scraped [softenend and made into what ever you wish hope this helps. i beleive u need to share knowledge to keep it going not keep and waste it :)

  28. Ali Says:

    Hi Jasmine

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience of dyeing flax. I tend to use either Rit or Teri dyes, depending on the colour that I want, and haven’t used Dylon for quite a while.

  29. rejoice Says:

    Hi, i am interested in learning how to dye my flowers. Having read through the comments above im a little confused as to what is the next step after weaving my flowers. Is it ok to dye fresh flowers straight after they have been weaved or do i need to boil them or let them dry out first? and also do they have to be rinsed straight after dyeing? I stumbled across your website last week and found it really informative, I also had a go at the fantail posted on here, however after half and hour of trying to get the wings to where they were suppose to go, I gave up, I will try it another time…Thanks

  30. Ali Says:

    Hi Rejoice

    You can dye your fresh flowers straight after weaving them. Many people do rinse them after boiling them but I don’t always do that, and I don’t think it’s essential, although it does help the flax to cool down.

    I don’t think it’s necessary to boil the flax first and let it dry before dyeing, but if you do this, the flax will take the colour slightly differently than if you dye green flax. If you do want to boil the flax first, I suggest you do that before you make the flower.

  31. Muriel Says:

    Kia Ora,
    Can you please tell me how long will the dye in my putiputi last,and how can i keep its color.
    I am getting married in December 2013 and have been busy making putiputi for my wedding…Please let me know Thank-you

  32. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Muriel
    In my experience the colour of chemical dyes when used to dye flax will last for years, as long as the flax piece is kept out of the sun or bright light. I have had a basket of dyed flowers for nearly four years and although some of the darker colours have faded a bit, most of the putiputi still look colourful. Do send me some photos of the putiputi if you get a chance. Good luck with your wedding!

  33. Marama Says:

    Kia ora Muriel

    It may be a good idea to weave all ur putiputi, then maybe a month before the wedding dye them. That way ur putiputi will dry and ur shades of colours should b the same. Also i believe the colours will take better wen ur harakeke has dried. Would love to know u get on with that Good luck with the wedding.

  34. Sue Says:

    I have successfully used rit dyes with boiled flax leaf but this year the rit dyes I have bought (red and black) just have not taken. Any clues as to what might be wrong?

  35. Ali Says:

    Hi Sue

    I understand that Rit have changed the dyes so that they don’t work for flax any more, but I haven’t tried them myself as I have older stocks. Teri dyes are another source of flax dyes.

  36. Ebony Rapana Says:

    Whats the best dye to use on dying a maro?

  37. Ali Says:

    Hi Ebony

    Any dye that dyes flax will work OK.

  38. Lin Says:

    Hi, I am trying to dye flax flowers hot pink, could you recommend a dye/colour to achieve this. Have tried Dylon fushia but the colour did not take. Thanks!

  39. Ali Says:

    Hi Lin

    I suggest you try Teri dyes as these are made for flax dyeing. You may need to mix colours to get the hot pink. You can find the contact for Teri dyes on my Dyeing Flax page.

  40. Moewaka Hinepare Says:

    Kia Ora Ali, I am interested in yr book, Im wanting to know how to make pastel colours for dyeing please.

  41. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Moewaka

    My book Weaving Flowers from New Zealand Flax is $35 which includes postage and packaging. To purchase the book please direct credit this amount into my bank account Westpac 03-0823-0516382-00.

    You may also be interesting in a booklet I have written called Weaving a Large Container from New Zealand Flax. If you’d like this book as well then the total cost is $47.70 which includes postage and packaging. The full details about buying my book are on the Shop page of my website.

    I suggest the best way to achieve pastel colours when dyeing flax is to boil the flax and leave it for a few days to dry first. This reduces the greeness of the leaves. Then dye it with a weak solution of dye. You’ll notice when dyeing flax that as more bundles of leaves are dyed with one batch of dye, the lighter the later bundles are in colour. This will give you an indication of how pale colours are achieved. As with any dyeing, you will probably get slight variations in the end results. Good Luck!

  42. Kopara Says:

    Tena Koe Ali,

    I live in the Gold Coast Australia. The harakeke that grows here is alot different to ours back home. I have found that the harakeke is alot tougher to use and when I hapene the day/days later after preping, my whenua snaps. Do you think if I boil the harakeke that would help? I have brought some Mod Red/ Red and Black teri dyes but not sure if the flax would take well due the the toughness of the harakeke? Your thoughts please :)

  43. Ali Says:

    Tena Koe Kopara

    I’m not sure why the strips snap but it could be that the flax is quite dry, so boiling it may help as long as you soften it while it is still damp.

    As far as the dyeing is concerned, I think you will be OK. Keep an eye on the colour as you do the dyeing and you may need to leave the flax longer in the dye pot or add more dye, but this is a normal process when dyeing anyway. Good luck!

  44. Rea Says:

    Kia ora, I am experiencing some trouble with dyeing harakeke, I have been using rit and dylon dyes with no avail Im not sure why its not taking but feeling quite frustrated. Any extra trouble shooting much appreciated Rea.

  45. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Rea
    My understanding is that Rit dye is no longer able to be used for dyeing harakeke as the manufacturers have changed the composition of it. Teri dyes are good to use though. Check out my Dyeing Flax page on this web site.

  46. Donna-lee Skipworth Says:

    Kia Ora Rea
    I live in Melbourne and would like to know if Teri dye is a available in Australia or if it can be shipped ..if not would you beable to suggest any other dye options that may be available here :)

  47. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Donna-Lee, the best thing to do would be to contact Ioulia Crowley at Teri Dyes
    Phone: 027 376 4656
    Their website is

  48. Mere Maniapoto Says:

    How do you make the apple green colour dye?

  49. Ali Says:

    Kia ora Mere, It’s a while since I did dyeing but from memory it is a mixture of green and yellow dyes.

  50. Henry Says:

    Kia ora, My wife is trying to dye her flax a light cyan color to fill the wishes of her design of her potai (hat). I was wondering what mix of dye would be appropriate? THanks

  51. Ali Says:

    Kai ora Henry, If it’s a light cyan that’s wanted, then I suggest the flax is boiled and dried first to remove as much of the green as possible. It will then be easier to achieve a lighter colour as not so much dye is required.