Most cloth in Viking times was made simply using the natural colours of wool – dark and light brown, grey, black and white.
Dyes were used mainly to colour small amounts of woollen yarn to make decorative edges to textiles.
The yarns were dyed using natural sources: yellow and brown were obtained from leaves, bark, roots and lichens. Woad and walnut husks were also used. Only very occasionally was linen dyed.
Through trade, the Vikings obtained foreign dyes such as indigo (blue), madder (orange-red) and cochineal (blue-red). Dyes could be mixed to create additional colours or used on natural-coloured wools to make different shades.
To make dyes adhere, the wool was heated with a small amount of mineral (mordents). The Vikings had iron, tin, copper, and alum, which naturally occurs in clubmoss (Diphasium complanatum).