Blossoms of Anthemis tinctoria on a wool sample dyed with them. Photo: Jenni-Liisa Yliniva, 2023.
Blossoms of Anthemis tinctoria and a wool sample dyed with them. Jenni-Liisa Yliniva, 2023.

The cultural tradition of colors and dyeing is combined with the latest technology in an EU-funded project


The degree programme in Fashion, Textile Art and Material Studies takes part in an extensive project that combines the cultural tradition of colorants and textile dyeing with the development of new dyeing technologies and bio-based dyes. The international project is financed by the European Union's Horizon Europe framework programme.

For a designer, especially in the field of fashion and textiles, color is one of the most important choices in the design process. However, few consider where the color comes from to all the products around. It is widely known that the production of dyes and dyeing involve considerable environmental problems, which is why there will be a need for greener ways of producing and using dyes in the future.

In the international Colour4CRAFTS project, research groups from different disciplines and RD companies join forces to produce new information on the culture history of using dyes and new technological applications of bio-based dyes. Researchers and business partners examine what kind of new perspectives history and traditional working methods could open for the production and use of colors to solve environmental problems here and now. In addition, it will be studied how traditional working methods could be applied to produce and use dyes that are more environmentally friendly than before.

ULapland focuses on education and new applications of dyeing, as well as the values and attitudes associated with natural colors

In the project, the researchers of the University of Lapland's Fashion, Textile Art and Material Studies examine, for example, how European textile art and craftsmanship could promote the sustainable dyeing of textiles in the future. The goal is to propose new applications for traditional dyes and methods. In addition, they organise training related to sustainable textile dyeing, where the production of colors is studied using practical methods.

"We are interested, for example, in how colors are taught in design and crafts, and how the use of bio-based dyes can be learned," says Ana Nuutinen, Professor in Fashion and Clothing from the University of Lapland.

In addition, researchers at the University of Lapland collect information from artisans, designers and artists about the use, production and development of natural dyes, as well as the motives for using them. For example, what are the values, attitudes and meanings associated with natural colors?

"We consider, for example, choices related to colors and the values behind them, as well as conflicts of values and interests of different parties. Color is one of the most effective intangible elements used in the textile and clothing industry in the design of various products, events and experiences. The choice of colors affects the entire value chain of the product, from the beginning of the design to recyclability. So how do you make sensible color choices," Professor Nuutinen states.

According to Professor Nuutinen, we are used to the situation where the colors do not fade in dyed or colored products which are produced industrially. This is considered a sign of high quality.

"When we move towards sustainable production of dyes, novelty colors can be undyed, natural-colored materials and faded color shades. The question then is whether consumers are ready to adapt to new sustainable color production methods and, with that, potentially higher prices and a smaller color selection."

Values and attitudes also include awareness of environmental problems and an understanding of one's own responsibility and opportunities for influence. The subproject of the University of Lapland also examines the role that design education plays in values and attitudes. Design students as well as crafts professionals and enthusiasts are involved by producing workshops, teaching materials and exhibitions about natural colors.

Colour4CRAFTS: Color for Combining, Re-engineering, Applying, Futuring, Transforming, Stretching!, 2023–2026

In the three-year international project, the cultural tradition of colors and dyeing is combined with the latest technology. The project investigates the cultural tradition of dyes and textile dyeing in historical times and, on the other hand, the development of new dyeing technologies and bio-based dyes using cultural historical information.

The project is coordinated by the University of Helsinki. The partners are the University of Lapland, the University of Leeds (Great Britain), the University of Tartu (Estonia) and the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage of Belgia KIK-IRPA, as well as PILI Bio from France, which develops colors using enzyme technology.

The total funding of the project is 4.079 million euros, of which the financial contribution received by the University of Lapland is 336,000 euros. The subproject of the University of Lapland is led by Professor Ana Nuutinen. In addition, University Lecturer Karoliina Laxström and University Teacher Jenni-Liisa Yliniva are part of the project team at the University of Lapland. The funding is EU consortium funding from the Horizon Europe framework programme. The project will start on May 1, 2023.

More information:

Professor Ana Nuutinen, tel. +358 40 484 4091, ana.nuutinen (at)