A selection of craft information for artisans of the HFS.

    How To Use Natural Dyes

    Dame Katrin Karlsdottir
    Dame Katrin Karlsdottir

    Posts : 28
    Join date : 2011-06-02
    Age : 51

    How To Use Natural Dyes Empty How To Use Natural Dyes

    Post  Dame Katrin Karlsdottir on Fri Jun 17, 2011 3:21 pm

    Principles of Natural Dyeing

    1. Most natural dyes need
      both a plant extract and a mineral mordant to make a permanent color.
    2. The stronger the dye
      extract - the more plant used - the deeper the color.
    3. Mineral (metal salt)
      mordants are always used in the same proportion. One can use less for a
      pale color, but never use more, as too much metal can harm the fiber or
      dramatically change your color result.
    4. All recipes are given
      as proportions. Typically, amounts are for 1 pound of fiber. If you are
      dyeing more, increase the amounts, proportionally; if less, decrease,
      always proportionally. i.e. if you are dyeing 1/2 lb, use only 1/2 the
      recipe amount.
    5. Time, Temperature
      & Concentration are the variables involved in any chemical reaction.
      Higher temperature means less time needed for dyeing, as does higher
      concentration of dyestuff.
    6. Prepare your textile
      material for the rigors of the dyebath: put fibers in a mesh bag; tie
      any yarn into skeins and then place them into a mesh bag; Pre-wash all
      fabrics or garments to remove any sizing.
    7. NO RUSH. Work
      time is not that much, but process time can be several days.

    Equipment and Materials

    Use big pots with plenty of room for the material to move
    freely. Otherwise the color will dye very unevenly.
    Since these recipes use only alum and iron for mordants, and
    completely non-toxic dyestuffs, any type of pot is ok to use. If you work
    just with alum and iron, most dye work can be done in plastic buckets with
    the cold soak method below (except the dye extraction itself). Stainless
    steel or un-chipped enamel are recommended. Aluminum pots will take more
    scrubbing to clean, and may stain permanently with dark dyes. Iron darkens
    colors, so iron pots should be used only with recipes that call for iron. Just
    make sure you scrub your pot thoroughly after use or you may end up with pink
    spaghetti. If other mordants are used, use a stainless steel pot dedicated
    only to dyework because there will always be residue and you wouldn't want to
    eat from these pots.

    Step 1 - Preparing material and dye

    Mordanting your fiber material:

    • Weigh your textile
      material. All recipes are proportional, just as in cooking.
    • Alum: Divide
      the weight of the material to dye by four. Weight out that much alum
      mordant. A scant two tablespoons equals one ounce of alum. Add the alum
      to the pot, and almost fill with warm water. Leave enough room to add
      the wet textile material. Stir until fully dissolved.
    • Other Mordants:
      ½ oz (two teaspoons) per pound fiber for tin, chrome, iron and copper.
    • Wet out the textile in
      warm water.
    • Add the wet textile.
      Gently stir so that it is opened out in the solution.
    • Heat until the pot is
      hot, stirring occasionally for evenness of color.
    • Keep it HOT for about
      1 hour. (180 - 200 degrees F)
    • Let cool overnight.

    ALTERNATIVE: begin with hot tap water. "MORDANT"
    in a plastic bucket and let it soak 3 to 5 days. (Lower temperature = more
    time). Silk is ready after soaking overnight. Tin, chrome and copper need to
    be heated to mordant well. Iron can be done cold.

    MEANWHILE, extract the dye:

    • in plenty of water,
      (enough to loosely cover by several extra inches,) Boil up your selected
    • Flowers, mosses,
      grasses or berries - boil 20 minutes; strain off the water to make the
    • Barks, roots, dyewoods
      - soak overnight, boil 1/2 hour, pour off and save the extract (this is
      the dye solution), add more water and boil again. Do this boiling and
      saving three times to make the dyebath. -or more times, as long as dye
      continues to extract.
    • Cochineal - if ground,
      boil 20 minutes; if whole, proceed as for barks.

    Step 2 - Dyeing

    • Add enough additional
      water to the dye solution so the textile can move freely in the dyebath.
    • Add the textile and
      heat to hot. Heat 1 hour or until the color is the desired depth.
      Remember, the color will lighten after it is rinsed and dried.
    • If the color is too
      light, use more dyestuff. (But do not use more mordant.)
    • Now is the time to
      modify the color, if desired, with the additional mordant of iron.
      (See directions, below.)
    • Cool the textile,
      rinse and dry. Handle the fiber according to its form:

      • Fiber should be
        gently swooshed in several changes of water, squeezed out and removed
        from its mesh bag only after it is partly dry. Then pull it gently to
        smooth and groom (card) the roving.
      • Yarn should be
        rinsed with an up and down motion to help remove tangles and smooth it.
        Wring thoroughly. Shake out and twist it while drying, to soften.
      • Fabric can be run
        thru a wash cycle, without soap, in a machine; then tumbled dry to

    Adjusting the Color

    Dissolve about 1 tablespoon of ferrous sulphate per pound textile. Add to the
    dyebath, or fill a bucket with warm water, add the iron and transfer the
    textile to this "after mordant" bath.

    This is an important technique to know, for iron will turn golds to moss
    greens, reds to plum and maroon colors, and will darken browns. Many leaves
    and plants will make grey with iron as the only mordant needed.

    • Always remember: have fun
      and treasure the unique.

      Current date/time is Sun Jun 16, 2019 9:57 pm