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Posts Tagged ‘mordant’

I woke up yesterday morning with a hankering to go outside, and to dye fabric. A quick look through my Nature’s Colors book, revealed that Wild Iris dyes fabric a deep purple and Bush Lupine a vibrant green. We took a look at the map, found a high elevation meadow down a four wheel drive dirt road, and took off for a morning adventure.

Sure enough, we found cattle grazing in the meadow, and lots of wild iris. I went to collecting them (they are poisonous to cows, so I didn’t think the rancher would mind), and soon had a bag full. Next was lupine, and we found just enough at about 8,000 feet that hadn’t gone to seed already, along the road side.

Beautiful shooting star in the meadows with the wild iris. What a magenta color!

Back home, I weighed my plant matter. 20 ounces of iris and 6 ounces of lupin. The recipe called for a ratio of 6:1, so I could dye 3 ounces of fabric with the iris and 1 ounce of fabric with the lupin. It takes a lot of plant matter to dye a little piece of fabric!

Weighing the plant matter.

The iris recipe called for the flower heads to soak in water several hours before boiling.

Meanwhile, I per-mordanted my fibers with alum, the most environmentally friendly of the mordants, and least toxic to humans and the world. After an hour of simmering, I rinsed out the fabric, and prepared the pot for lupines.

Into the pot went the pre-mordanted fabric, the lupin, and just enough water to cover it all. This simmered for an hour, and then was left to sit overnight in its juices.

By now, the iris had been soaking for several hours. I added the pre-mordanted fabric to the pot, and simmered them for one hour. This was also left to sit overnight. Now it is the next morning, and I am headed out to the back yard to take a look. Will be back with pictures once the fabric drys!

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Day 2 began with rinsing the fabric from the two pots of alum and tannin mordants that sat overnight. I lay a plastic drop cloth in the bathroom floor, opened the window, and proceeded to rinse and rinse and rinse. All waste water went down the drain (remember the mordant part is the messy chemical part).

Then it was time to dye! I did my calculations, for every 100 grams of fabric . . . Dissolved the dye powder in water, and brought the dye bath and fabric to boiling. I then reduced the heat and let simmer at 180 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.

Multiple trips to the pot to stir and check the temperature.

I chose to dye with two plants, that I purchased in powder form from the internet: madder and logwood.

Madder is a perennial plant that has been used as a dye for over 5,000 years. The dye doesn't come from the leaves but from the root of the plant.

Logwood is a tropical hardwood in the legume family.

Madder dyes a red color, and logwood a purple color.

Stirring the dye bath as fabric turns red from madder.

And, after much boiling, simmering, and rinsing, the final product! With one dye bath, you can produce many colors depending on the different mordants used. From left to right: 1 – Logwood dye with tannin mordant, 2- Logwood dye with alum mordant, 3 – Madder dye with tannin mordant, and 4 – Madder dye with alum mordant.

Four lovely colors.

What’s next? I am going to test their color fastness. I also am going to try a third mordant, which is more involved, alum-tannin-alum mordant. I am on the tannin step. We’ll have to compare how the color comes out different. I’d also like to try collecting some plant stuffs myself, and creating my own dye colors. Maybe collecting dye stuffs locally, creating a color pallette specific to our region.

For this first experiment, I followed the instructions in “The Craft of Natural Dyeing” by Jenny Dean. Anyone else have a favorite dye book? I’d be curious to try other methods or to read more.

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