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Soya Pre-Treatment

Updated: Feb 10, 2020

A photo of some rope submerged in water and being held down by a hand and tattooed arm.
Soaking the pre-cut material (step 1)

What is the aim of soya pre-treatment?

Soya pre-treating is an excellent step to add into any dye process using plant dyes and natural fibre. The soya milk adds protein to the fibres which helps the plant dyes to cling to it more securely.

Will it shift the colour?

Most times when I have used soya milk to pre-treat fabrics, it hasn't altered the end colour other than to ensure that it is more evenly absorbed. It's always good to have a test run if you aren't sure, although! I know some people who have much more wealth of plant dying experience have noted deeper colours from soya pre-treated fabrics.


How do I pre-treat my fabrics?

(please note, I am using three-ply, recycled cotton rope and shop bought soya milk in an aluminium pan)

What will you need?

Your material (pre cut)

A large container (you want your material to have movement so bear that in mind)

Soya milk (shop bought or home-made)


Somewhere cool to leave the container and its contents

What to do:

a wooden spoon sitting in an aluminium pot full of soya milk and water
Cotton rope fully submerged in the soya milk.

1. Take your pre-cut material and soak it in some plain water. Ensuring the material is wet allows the it to absorb the soya milk more evenly and results in a much more uniform colour uptake later on.

2. Whilst this is soaking, get your soya milk, container and water and create a solution of approximately 1 parts soya milk to 10 parts water. This solution may sound weak, but it's all about even absorption! Less soya milk, more of an even coating. Once the material is well and truly soaked, ring it out ready for the next step.

3. Add the wet material to the soya milk solution. Top it up with water to allow it plenty of space to move freely.

4. Pop the container (and its contents!) somewhere cool and leave for approximately 12 hours, stirring and moving the fabric about every so often.

5. Once the 12 hours is up, remove the material from the soya milk solution and allow it to dry - avoiding dripping to prevent drip marks. If your material is like mine and three-ply cotton, it will not withstand the washing machine, but if you have an item of clothing or a sheet or something which is able to be washed, pop it in the washing machine and give it a gentle spin cycle.

6. Once the fabric has fully dried, repeat steps 3-5 another two to four times.

You can use the same soya milk solution as many times as possible, but do not use it once it has started to turn)

Once you have finished these steps, you will be able to add your material to your dye!

Let me know if you come across any colour shifts when using this method or if you have any other natural dye tips!

Have fun, Nature is Magick!




Botanical Colour at your Fingertips, Rebecca Desnos, <>

Wild Colour, Jenny Dean,


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