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Topic: Natural Dyes: Tips, Tricks and Resources.  (Read 2060 times)
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TheBon
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« on: February 01, 2007 09:42:02 AM »

Alright, I've noticed around that there is definitely interest in natural dyeing. Since I have some experience with this, I'm going to compile some useful information here for folks. Feel free to chime in with additional information!

For starters: Natural dyes will dye both protein and cellulose fibers with equal ease.

Mordants: Mordants are what you use to "fix" the dye to the fiber. Vinegar is not a mordant. A lot of people think that it is, but it is not, and your color/lightfastness is going to vary if you use vinegar as a mordant. Common mordants are alum, iron, copper, and chrome. Chrome is very very dangerous so most people don't recommend you work with it. As with chemical dyes, you must wear your gloves and glasses when mixing mordants or when mixing powdered natural dye extracts into liquid states. You do not want to inhale these things.

Some items that will dye without mordants: onion skins, walnut husks, anything with tannins in it. Most natural dyes need a mordant. You may get a pretty color from beet juice but without mordanting it's not likely to stay that way for the long term.

Color: Blue and purple are hard colors to achieve with natural dyes. Just saying. The pH of your water is going to affect what color the dye turns into as well. For instance, cochineal will vary from deep purple-ish to a bright scarlet depending on the pH of the dye bath. The pot that you cook in can also change the color of things, especially if it is copper or iron.

Safety: Dust masks/respirators, safety glasses and gloves are a must! Also, as with non-natural dyeing, you must, must, must use separate measuring and cooking apparatuses than those that you prepare and eat food with. Just because it is natural does not mean it is edible. Plus, you don't want to ingest those mordants! Be careful when combining dye stocks with different mordants in them! They can create bad, evil things if you're not careful. Like mustard gas. So, work carefully in well ventilated areas.

Exhausting the dyes: I can only think of one natural dye that exhausts in the dye stock. It's a shade of blue that is a chemical/natural dye hybrid. Most others will just get weaker, although you can continue to add more extract to them to refresh them. If your dye stock goes moldy it's time to throw it out. If it gets a little gunky, just strain off the gunk and keep going. Your depth of shade is going to be reliant on both the amount of dye in the dye bath and the length of time in that dye bath.

Suppliers and more information:
http://www.earthues.com/ sells a lot of extracts. You can also purchase their products through other folks like Halcyon Yarn.

The Joy of Handspinning has a good list of dyes and the colors you can expect from them as well as mordants and other dyeing chemicals.

A page about Dyeing Chemisty

I don't agree with their fixatives, but here's another list of plants and the colors you can expect from them: http://www.pioneerthinking.com/naturaldyes.html




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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2007 08:31:09 PM »

Thank you!  I am going to print this out, then go shopping and spend a day experimenting with different stuff.  My moms spice cabinet needs weeding, anyway.  I have no idea where you would buy the iron or copper or stuff...maybe a health food store?  Supplements?  Or would I have to special order them from a dyeing supply store?
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« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2007 08:50:42 PM »

I stickied this since it's such an excellent resource! Hopefully we get some sort of dying board soon. Thanks for doing this!
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TheBon
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« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2007 10:02:07 PM »

Thank you!  I am going to print this out, then go shopping and spend a day experimenting with different stuff.  My moms spice cabinet needs weeding, anyway.  I have no idea where you would buy the iron or copper or stuff...maybe a health food store?  Supplements?  Or would I have to special order them from a dyeing supply store?

I would suggest ordering them from a dyeing supply store. You'll want really high quality [chemistry grade if you can get it] chemicals and I doubt you'll find them at a food store. You could always check though.
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« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2007 10:36:26 AM »

This place has dyes and mordants:

http://griffindyeworks.com/naturaldyes.html

The only mordant I buy is alum, because the rest scare me. You can make your own iron or copper mordant, though - I've done it with iron. You take rusty nails and put them in a jar with a diluted vinegar/water solution and let it sit for a week. It bubbles and turns orange, and then you can use it. You can use pieces of copper and make a copper mordant the same way. I need to go look up the exact ratio of vinegar to water. I've also read that rhubarb leaves can be used as a mordant on wool.

Also, I am now in the habit of collecting a bagful of onion skins every time I'm in the grocery store. I was too shy to do it at first, but I mentioned it to my mom once, and the next time we were shopping together she was crawling around under the onion bins.

A really super amazing book on natural dyes is "Wild Color" by Jenny Dean. This is where I found the instructions for making your own mordants.
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« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2007 11:02:28 AM »

If you ask at the grocery store they often have boxes and boxes of onion skins that they'll give you for free.
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« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2007 04:10:01 PM »

Oh! Asking at the store. That's brilliant. I'd tried to collect them as we used the onions... but that was a failure. That's a much better idea.

If you're at all into gardening, or want to try, A Dyer's Garden by Rita Buchanan is a great resource. I have a definite lack of a green thumb, but I'm trying to convince my mom that a few of the plants mentioned would look great in her garden Cheesy
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« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2007 05:50:51 AM »

has anyone ever dyed with wild grapes & if so what was the process
thanks

we have --in the summer lots of wild grapes growing around our yard (bush) & if I can use then --bonus
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« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2007 08:41:25 PM »

wild color is an awesome book... if you can find it... i believe it is out of print.

i only use alum as a mordant, but still wearing a mask because it is a fine powder. i got mine from dharma trading in san rafael (california), but they do online and mailorder too.

tumeric (sp?) works well without a mordant and produces a beautiful gold color and will even dye rayon (yayyyy)

that's all i got. thebon's tips are primo.
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« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2007 10:34:12 AM »

thanks for that!


theres an old book out there that was put out by readers Digest called "Back to basics"

it had a great table for natural dyeing - it has some neat ideas... like using acorns and onion skins and queen annes lace...

« Last Edit: April 13, 2007 11:35:18 AM by vanillaxlight » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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