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

Green Cotton, Brown Cotton and a bit of Woad

Green cotton
Green cotton
Brown cotton
Brown cotton
Brown cotton
Brown cotton

Brown cotton seeds starting to come up. Cotton is always interesting to watch. The plant starts elbowing up and as the leaves open up they push off the seed casing.


And the Woad. Woad is not a desert plant. (Pause for a moment of duh.) It requires some extra care when weather is hot and dry.
These two are surviving but look a bit raggedy here due to snacking by bugs. Moved them to a different corner and mixed up some insecticidal soap. Hoping for the best here.

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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