About Colour4CRAFTS

Funded by EU Horizon, Colour4CRAFTS is a consortium project that combines the cultural traditions of dyes and textiles, with the development of novel dyeing techniques and bio-based dyes using state-of-the-art technology.
What is Colour4CRAFTS?

The project focuses on the actions of Combining, Re-engineering, Applying, Futuring, Transforming, Stretching, or CRAFTS, as a means of cultivating craft skills in textile colouration, transform traditional processes, and shape cultural practices into sustainable, cutting-edge solutions for the future of bio-based practices in creative industries and industrial scale textile production. To achieve its challenging and innovative goals and objectives, the project consists of a consortium of experts from partnering research institutes and companies engaged in research and development (R&D). The consortium consists of: 

For more information about the researchers and teams of the consortium partners, visit the research teams page.

Colour4CRAFTS pursues following avenues of research – historical practices of dyeing and the cultural and societal value of colour and colouration, scientific analysis of natural and bio-based colourants, sustainable methods for novel bio-based dye production and colouration practices, real world applicability and company collaboration, as well as education for preserving craft knowledge to foster European cultural heritage in textile colouration and craft skills related to colouration. Project aims to transform the traditional processes into sustainable cutting-edge processes which support creative industries and futures’ green deal objectives.

History of Northeastern Baltic textile culture, craft dyeing practices and used colorants

Colour4CRAFTS will examine the history and tradition of dyeing techniques and textile production in the Northeastern Baltic region, which is a less studied area in terms of its textile culture, craft dyeing practices and use of colourants compared to Central Europe. Since there is a small number of written sources from this region and with a growing interest in past, rapidly disappearing textile techniques, including historical dyeing methods using natural dyes, the study of the dyes and traditional techniques of dyeing is of great importance for the preservation of the craft knowledge and the use of local, natural dye components. This practical and natural knowledge is a basis for the development of novel applications. Given the challenges identified and the multi-dimensional elements of dyes and dyeing processes, this study requires an interdisciplinary approach incorporating methods from the fields of archaeology, history, ethnography, and chemistry to name a few. This interdisciplinary investigations aids in identifying dye compounds and manufacturing formulations, including mordants.

The Colour4CRAFTS project aims to fill the knowledge gap within the historical narrative and chronicle of dyeing traditions, while also providing data and inspiration for the development of novel sustainable dyeing methods, while also reconnecting to one’s individual and communal past and identity, thus awakening a collective cultural memory. The local dyeing tradition is important also for a wider European audience of crafters, especially for dyers interested in past techniques, and the broader scientific community of archaeologists, historians, and ethnologists. By investigating past cultures and societies, trading networks, cultural interactions, and traditional aesthetic tastes of regional communities, we can learn and adopt historical practices and traditions to cope with the modern complex world and to create more sustainable technologies for the future.

Society’s relationship with colour and sustainability practices

Building on the historical meanings of colour and the cultural practices of dyeing in the past, Colour4CRAFTS will interrogate how European textile art and craft contributed to the future of the sustainable textile colouration industry. Colourful textile artefacts cross many e.g., national and temporal borders. Based on this knowledge, we are interested in the following questions:

  • How have colours crossed over the centuries?
  • How have the borders changed over time?
  • What could they be in the future?

In addition to addressing these questions, the project will also explore and distinguish the relationship between health/wellbeing and craft coloration. It has been acknowledged that participating in knitting, crocheting and embroidery has always had strong links with mental wellbeing and health, prompting us to consider how individual health would be enhanced by using natural materials and craft technology.

The nature and culture of colour was often determined by the role colour played in traditional textile crafts, as well as defining the cultural drivers that influenced colour choice, colour forecasting, and future colour trends. Therefore, to understand the value of colour and to establish the value and impact of colour-stretching, we will examine the motivations for using natural colourants, for example, by artists and crafters at Lake Tuusula, Finland in the 20th-century. These artisans and crafters used self-dyed yarns in their artwork, and yet these textile works have not yet been properly studied. Furthermore, along with creating colour through textile structures and bindings: e.g., weaving, embroidery, felting, spinning, we will analyse and debate whether the value and production of historical colour could become accepted practices across wider product areas in the future. 

Scientific analysis of natural colourants through the development of technological applications

As a point of departure from discussions that connect culture, history and novel biocolourants, Colour4CRAFTS will utilise scientific research methods that centres on the identification and properties of natural colourants and the processes that will lead to a variety of pure and modified dyes for the development of new technological applications.

The properties of natural dyes from lichen and plant sources are challenging targets for structural analysis, especially in small quantities, which is inevitable in the case of archaeological textile samples. Through the use of extraction methods, including chromatographic separation and UV/VIS and mass spectroscopic detection, the project will not only fingerprint dyestuff origins, but also build a chromatographic and mass spectroscopic library of possible dyes that may have been used in traditional dyeing processes throughout Northern Europe.

Colour4CRAFTS will study and analyse how the chemical modification of natural dyes will enhance molecules stability and attachment to textile fibres, thereby producing more sustainable colourants for dyeing and providing a foundation for re-engineering dyes and dyeing conditions. For the re-engineering of the dyes and binders to be more bio-based and sustainable, PILI-BIO, one of the Colour4CRAFTS consortium partners, develops new routes to dyes using industrial fermentation and green chemistry.

Engaging, interacting, and impacting through stretching the craft technology into futures innovations

To build on the current understanding of bio-based colourants and to redefine our concept of, and imagination for, historical craft dyeing, Colour4CRAFTS proceeds with “stretching” the boundaries of biomaterial resources and the application of the colourants by using 21st-century technology. This approach challenges the creative, cultural, and commercial possibilities for future innovation. With the increasing awareness of the environmental impact and health and safety challenges linked to coloration.

Finally, the project will build on futures scenarios of colourants and colouration practices by not only developing pedagogical activities and curriculum practices that educate and engage students and young generations as they are especially the ones to define the future. By interacting and disseminating the interdisciplinary research of the project, we will ensure that the legacy of traditional dyeing practices is maintained through the development of sustainable initiatives that incorporate the old and new. As such, the project will seek to emphasise that the key to sustainability and societal applicability is rooted in utilising the various futures research methodologies in the disciplines of history, art and craft and science, along with collecting evidence-based data of colourants and colouration phenomena exposes and reinforces the cultural significance of colour, dyed textiles, and historical practices for humanity.