Desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (DESI-MS) is an ambient mass spectrometry technique that shows great potential for the analysis of fragile heritage objects in situ. This article focuses on the application of a recently built DESI source to characterize natural dyestuffs in historical textiles and a presentation of initial imaging experiments. Optimization of the instrumental settings, geometrical parameters, and solvent system of the DESI-MS analysis were conducted on rhodamine B samples. Some variables, including an increased flow rate, a narrower range of optimized geometrical variables and a solvent system without additives, were applicable to both early synthetic and natural dyes. Direct dye turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) could be reliably analyzed on both silk and wool, as could anthraquinone standards without mordanting. These preliminary results suggest that the dye application process (direct, mordant, vat) has a large impact on the ionization efficiency of DESI-MS. Imaging trials highlighted the future suitability of DESI-MS for the analysis of patterned textiles that are difficult to sample, such as calico fabrics, or other currently inaccessible objects. The dataset is related to the paper Sandström, E., Vettorazzo, C., Logan Mackay, C., Troalen, L.G. and Hulme, A.N. (2023). "Historical Textile Dye Analysis Using DESI-MS", Heritage 6(5), 4042-4053; https://doi.org/10.3390/heritage6050212 .