Woad Processing Oct 2021

It’s been a long time since I’ve done any Woad processing – or growing. Two years of drought wiped out my front yard patch. One of my fellow SoCal Handweavers guildmates gave me some starter plants that you see in the lower left.

This is following the excellent directions from http://woad.org.uk/html/woad_pigment.html .

Woad plant as of October 2021
Woad plant, Oct 2021
Woad plant after trimming leaves to process
Woad plant after trimming some of the leaves to process.

I trimmed leaves from the larger plant which yielded 71 grams (2.5 oz) of fresh leaves.

Woad leaves to be processed
Chopped for processing

Following the directions for extracting Woad from http://woad.org.uk/html/woad_pigment.html steeped the leaves, added some Soda Ash.


The Soda Ash to make the steeped leaves more alkaline, over pH 9. The introduced oxygen to by running a mixer for about 10 minutes.

Next let it settle – blue at the bottom is the dye.

Pour out or use a turkey-baster to pull out some of the water and replace with more clean water, letting the powder settle to the bottom of the container.

clearner woad sludge
woad sludge “cleaned”

After about 3-4 days of clearing out the water and replacing with clean.

woad powder
woad powder

Let the Woad sludge dry out till only powder is left.

woad powder
woad powder

So, 71 grams of fresh leaves (2.5 oz) yielded 0.2 grams (0.01 oz). This may not sound like much but keep in mind this was from a few leaves trimmed from one young plant.

Also, I find this kind of process easy to do before and/or after work. Picking some leaves ever couple of weeks and processing that adds up.

Again see the excellent directions from http://woad.org.uk/html/woad_pigment.html .

Initial description and references

Mostly New Woad

I haven’t posted in a while.  Starting new plants and trying to regrow what I lost in the last heat wave.


Even though my Woad plants curled up and died  there were seeds from that last batch.


I’ve been moving them a few at a time into the yard.


This one (above) is the growing-Woad-in-a-planter experiment. Since the roots seemed so shallow it seemed possible that it might thrive in planter.

Coaxing Blue: My Further Adventures with Woad

I’ve used both Indigo and Woad in powdered form but never processed my own plants. Given my limited garden space it’s unlikely I’ll be able to grow enough for all my dye needs but I still like to grow as much as I’m able and understand the process a bit better.

Woad References:
All About Woad: Extraction Page:
Good pictures of the process.
the Yahoo Woad Growers Group:
Nice folks. They were helpful when I had processing/extracting questions.
Rowan’s Woad Page:
Institut für Färbepflanzen: Färberwaid:
If you read or want to practice reading German, this would be a good site.

First year woad plant. From what I’ve read Woad is a bi-annual plant. You get the dye from the first year leaves and your seeds the second year. And, that you can’t get dye the second year. I haven’t tested this out (yet) so anyone correct me if I’m wrong.

Harvesting leaves.

New Woad plants for next year.

Chopping and then stewing or steeping the Woad.

Mixing in the Ammonia to oxygenate.

Waiting around for the particles….(in my case about 3 days). Reading directions for Woad processing it can sound like you see particles settling in 15 minutes or an hour or two. In my case it was more like 3 days to a week. I posted to the Yahoo Woad group to see if I was doing anything incorrectly and got back very helpful replies. In some cases the particle settling phase takes a bit longer.

Finally..shadow on the bottom of the jar is Woad particles I’m waiting for. (Few days more)

Pigment settling and drying.

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End of summer, Woad vat, cotton, corn and beans

I don’t know how official this is but most people I know consider “Labor Day” – which in the US falls on the first monday of September – as the end of summer. I ended my summer with a Woad vat. The wool is my SCHG challenge recycling/upcycling project.

Starting from the left: Woad overdye Hibiscus (yellow); Woad overdye onion peel (orange-yellow); Woad multi-dipped; Woad one dip.

I had hoped to grow my own Woad but as it turned out I was growing Weld. (Oh don’t ask, so much for my plant identification skills…)

This Woad was purchased in powder from from Woad Inc in the UK. The All About Woad site has really excellent directions and also sells Woad dye and kits.

Besides the dye plants (my project) there is the family vegetable garden. Most years we get a supply of dried tomatoes and soup beans. This year we tried growing corn.  Besides what was eaten fresh and given away we have dried corn (soup, cornbread, etc.).

[dried -> ground -> corn bread]

And the first boll on my cotton shrub just started opening.

Eat corn bread, contemplate the Woad vat, not a bad ending for the summer.

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The Woad that is actually (Dyers) Weld

This is embarrassing. It’s what happens when you grow a plant that you have never actually observed from seed to dye pot. The Woad I thought I was growing is really Dyer’s Weld. Yellow not blue. More yellow. A really good, clear Lemon yellow but still more yellow.

Dyer's Weld

Before it began to bloom it could have been either.

Weld (not Woad) with Bee

However, as it blossomed it became obvious that the plant I had was not what I thought it was.  Checked every image I could find including the Druid Plant Oracle and I definitely was not growing Woad.


So I’ve got Weld, Dyer’s Weld. Nice looking plant. The bees seem to like it. Works on wool (protine fibers – so not cotton).

WLA Woad

MayWoad01woad detail

Southern California is experiencing the usual drought conditions and never having liked or wanted a lawn I’ve been slowly extending the kitchen herb garden out from the front of the porch and over what would be lawn. This eliminates lawn and leaves more room for Lavendar and Basil to run rampant. For watering I’ve been dumping my dish water and any reasonable gray water so the lavendar, sage, basil, woad and sundry odd herbs are thriving inspite of the dry spells.

and more woad 

Obviously one Woad plant won’t dye too much but I plan to save some seeds for next season. It’s also been interesting seeing how it grows. Nice looking plant.

I have however purchased some powderd Woad from http://www.woad.org.uk/. Seems like a good informative site.

Another site I’ve been reading through is the Woad Page.

In the meantime my Woad plant seems to be thriving on a combination of drought, Santa Ana winds, dish water and Trader Joe’s Next to Godliness non-phosphate dish soap.

Woad: woad and ‘volunteer’ basil

The woad continues growing out and now up. In one of the pots some volunteer basil appeard, which means Pesto sauce as well as blue dye.


I wasn’t sure how the particular plant would manage in a hot, dry (Southern California) climate. It seemed to start out slow last fall and really took off around the beginning of summer.

Should anyone else be interested, here are a couple of Woad sites:
Woad Inc
Rowan’s Woad Page
Yahoo Group: woadgrowers

woad and fennel

Yard fennel, summer 2008Yard fennel close-up, summer 2008

Around the time that the Oxalis was dying off the Fennel seemed to take off. It looks like I won’t be scavenging the Smart-&-Final parking lot or sides of freeways for Fennel this year. The backyard stand – now too large to be called a shrub – is producing enough to keep me in dye and local insects in food.

Woad early June 2008Woad early June, 2008Woad late June, 2008Woad late June, 2008

Also here, my first attempt at growing Woad. There are 2 plants, still in pots. One seems to have some Sweet Basil growing along side – probably from some other planting. They are about 6” across right now. I’m not sure how fast these grow but it is unlikely there will be blue dye until next season.