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mordants and overdyeing

May 11, 2011

following the directions for mordanting cotton and linen by the alum-tannin-alum method in Cardon’s Natural Dyes I prepared a selection of linen pieces.  Myrobalan was substituted for the tannin bath and left the fabrics a pale yellow.

while weeding the garden I realized there was enough dock ( rumex crispus ) to try a small experimental dye.  I washed the roots to remove the dirt, scrubbed them with an old toothbrush, pounded them with a hammer and then cut them up with the garden shears.  They were simmered for 2 hours – the smell was quite pleasant – strained, the fabrics added, simmered for 1 hour and left overnight to cool.


the napkin on the left is just the mordant, next is the piece dyed with the dock roots, the pinky napkin was first dyed in the roots, then an exhaust bath of cochineal which had a small amount of lac added and the final, dark napkin was dyed in all of the above with a very weak iron modifier at the end.

and finally one of the quickest, easiest and surprising natural dye results. Another mordanted napkin, rolled up with Japanese maple leaves, tied tightly and simmered for 1/2 hour. It has been thoroughly rinsed and that’s the colour!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 14, 2011 3:02 am

    What an amazing colour from the maple leaves! Where the leaves red?


  2. May 13, 2011 12:31 am

    lovely shibui colors you got.
    all the variables inherent to natural dyes is what makes the craft so fascinating and unexpected.


  3. Barb J permalink
    May 12, 2011 9:15 am

    I tried using dandelion roots to make a dye, but I couldn’t get all the dirt off. I think that I ended up rinsing all the dye out of the roots, since my final product wasn’t magenta (as it was supposed to be) but a rather blah off-white. I’ll have to try the old toothbrush method.


    • May 12, 2011 11:11 am

      I have tried dandelions occasionally but never had any success – just beige. my sources promised good yellows and orange with the dock, no such luck. there are so many variables, sometimes you have to question the results of others.


  4. May 12, 2011 8:24 am

    i just love those dock roots! and what a surprise. i think all the dye energy online might re-write (as has india) some of the natural dyeing “rules”.


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