Henna - crafts

A decoction (boiled extract) of henna leaves has been used in dyeing silk and wool in India to produce a yellowish or reddish-brown, though the colours could be varied by treating the fabrics with different chemicals. It has also been used in combination with other dyes in parts of India for dyeing handkerchiefs an almond colour.


The use of henna as a textile dye has declined since the advent of synthetic dyestuffs, but henna is occasionally used among dyers in Europe today, favoured because of the rusty colour it produces. To make a textile dye, the powdered leaves are mixed to a paste with warm water, and then diluted further with more water to make a dye bath in which the cloth or yarn is submerged and heated.

Powdered brown henna from the Economic Botany Collection at Kew Gardens.
Image: Henna can be used to dye textiles as well as hair and skin.

Henna is also used to dye designs onto animal skins in India, which are then made into lampshades and sold in Europe.