sitemap Natural Dyes, Mordants, and Helpful Tips

Natural Dyeing: Helpful Tips

The water you use for dyeing should be soft. Most tap water is too hard, and you should add a softener to it. If you are able to collect rain water that would be ideal. The following items are useful for dyeing, do not use them also for cooking.

Wool Preparation
When working with raw wool fleece, you must first scour the wool to remove the oil from the fiber. For 1lb of wool: fill 3-4 gallons of water in a pot with detergent (like Dawn). Put the wool in and slowly simmer for 45 minutes. Cool, then rinse.

Types of Mordants

Alum is most the frequently used. Solution: 4 ounces and 1 ounce cream of tartar for 1lb of wool. Chrome is used for warm colors. It enhances yellows, reds, and mutes greens. Solution: 1/2 ounce and 3/4 ounce cream of tartar for 1lb of wool.

Iron is used to gray colors. Do not make a mordant solution but add to the dye bath at the end of the dyeing process and simmer 20-40 minutes - 1/2 ounce and 1 ounce cream of tartar.

Mordant Directions
Dissolve the mordant in a small amount of hot water. Add 4-5 more gallons of water, enough to cover 1lb of wool, and heat to luke warm. Add the wool and simmer 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. Cool and rinse.

Dyeing Time

Place wet wool in luke warm dye bath and slowly raise to a simmer.

Dyes from flowers, fruits, and tender leaves: simmer 30 minutes - 1 hour

Dyes from tough leaves, roots, nut hulls, and bark: simmer 1 minutes - 2 hours

Cool and rinse until the rinse water is clear. Do's and Dont's

Never agitate the wool or it will felt. Lift and turn it gently in plenty of water.

Never shock with extreme changes in water temperature

Do not wring or twist - squeeze gently to remove excess water

It is not necessary to cover the pot when simmer in, unless you are using chrome which is light sensitive.

Dye entire amount of wool needed for project in one bath

Add white vinegar (1/4 cup per gallon) to rinse water to help soften the wool.

Natural Dyes

Beautiful bright colors can be obtained by dyeing with natural dyes. Dyes can be gathered from nature or you can use dyestuff which will give you any color under the rainbow.

Alkanet Root:
(Alkanna Tinctoria)
This will give colors from bluish grey to soft burgundy. This plant will grow like a weed if one wants to grow it.

Annato Seed: (Bixa Orellana)
Will give an orange shade, it is a good dye for cotton.

Brazilwood Dust: (Caesalpania Echinata)
This dye will give you reds. Before using the dust, expose it to the air and sprinkle with water and alcohol.

Cochineal: (Dactylopius Coccus)
The little cochineal bug will give the most color when ground into a fine powder. Obtainable colors are dark burgundy to bright red to soft lilac and pink.

Cutch Extract: (Acacia Catechu)
Cutch is a very easy dye. It will remain fast even on cottons and silks. It is good for combinations and produces brown tones if used by itself.

Indigo Natural: (Indigo Tinctotia)
Natural Indigo comes in blocks which, without further preparation, dyeing would not be possible as it does not dissolve in water. A recipe and reducing agent are needed. The color range that is produced is blue.

Indigo Solution Natural: (Saxony blue)
Produces a bright blue and is very easy to use, similar to a chemical dye. All of the dye will be absorbed in the fiber. It is not very good to dye cotton nor other vegetable fibers.

Loqwood Concentrate: (Hematoxylon Campechianum)
Expected colors anywhere from magenta's and brown to purples and pink. A mordant is absolutely needed. The concentrated powder will give more bluish colors. It dyes cotton well.

Madderroot: (Rubia Tinctorum)
Is available in two forms: root or dust. Colors range anywhere from red to red-brown and oranges. It dyes cotton well.

Osage Orange Dust: (Maclura Pomifer)
Also available in two colors; bright yellow and gold. Two different colors can be obtained.

Red Sandalwood: (Pterocarpus)
This dye is beautiful for blending. It produces lovely browns, good shade combinations for doll hair.


Mordants for Natural Dyeing

Mordants are needed to set the color when using natural dyes. Different mordants will give different results.

Alum: (Aluminum Potassium Sulfate)
This is the most widely used mordant. Be careful not to use too much with wool, otherwise you will get a sticky feeling that doesn't come out.

Copper: (Copper Sulfate)
This mordant is used to bring out the greens in dyes. It will also darken the dye colors, similar to using tin, but is less harsh.

*Chrome: (Potassium Dichromate)
Chrome brightens dye colors and is more commonly used with wool and mohair than with any other fiber.

Extremely toxic. Chrome should not be inhaled and gloves should be worn while working with chrome. Left over mordant water should be disposed of at a chemical waste disposal site and treated as hazardous waste.

Iron: (Ferrous Sulfate)
Dulls and darkens dye colours. Using too much will make the fiber brittle.

Glaubersalt: (Sodium Sulfate)
Used in natural dyes to level out the bath. Also use in chemical dye.

Spectralite: (Thiourea Dioxide)
This is a reducing agent for indigo dyeing.

Tara Powder: (Caesalpinia Spinosa)
Tara Powder is a natural tannin product. It is needed for darker colors on cotton, linen and hemp.

Tartaric Acid: A must for cochineal. This mordant will expand the cochineal colors.

Tin: (Stannous Chloride)
Tin will give extra bright colors to reds, oranges and yellows on protein fibers. Using too much will make wool and silk brittle. To avoid this you can add a pinch of tin at the end of the dying time with fiber that was premordanted with alum. Tin is not commonly used with cellulose fibers.

Calcium Carbonate:
Is to be used with indigo powder for the saxon blue color. It can also be used to lower the acidity of a dyebath.


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