Dyed cloth can be more confidently assigned to the late Third or early Fourth Dynasty, based on a red cloth fragment from the site of Meidum. Not until the New Kingdom, however, was cloth frequently woven with colored threads.
Ancient Egyptian dyeing materials can be divided into two basic types: ocher and plant dyes. Ocher is earth that consists of hydrated oxide of iron, or rust, mixed into clay. With heat, yellow iron oxide can turn into red iron oxide and can be used to create yellow, yellow-brown, and red colors.
The dyeing of linen with iron oxide has a long tradition in Egypt, which may date back to the Early Dynastic period with the Tarkhan textile. Linen that was colored red from iron oxide dye was also found at various later sites, including the workmen's village at Tell el-Amarna.
Several different methods of coloring cloth were used in the Dynastic period. The oldest method is "smearing," in which the color is spread onto the cloth, possibly with the aid of clay, mud, or honey. The Egyptians also carried out a process called double dyeing, in which fibers, threads, or cloth were first dyed one color and then dyed again with a different color to obtain a third color.
Purple, for example is made from red and blue, while green is made using yellow and blue. The Egyptians usually dyed either spun threads or woven cloth.
In woven cloth, white areas can sometimes be seen beneath the place where a warp thread, or vertical thread, passes over a weft or horizontal thread. Bleaching was also a decorative technique because the wearing of white garments was regarded by Egyptians as an indication of social status and, perhaps, as a sign of cleanliness.