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FEEDBACK FRIDAY: This Week in Natural Dye Questions

Each week, we are emailed with questions from our natural dye community asking simple and complex questions that we thought might be worth sharing. Here are a handful from this week answered by natural dyer in chief, Kathy Hattori, Founder of Botanical Colors:

Do you have any advice on how to get a consistent grey?

I am answering this in two parts. One, how to get a consistent, non-blotchy color and two, how to get the same color in multiple dye baths.

Here’s the answer to the first question.

Most gray recipes are a combination of a tannin dye with the addition of iron. If you are experiencing streaks and blotches, try the following:

  1. Start with a cold dye bath.  Thoroughly dissolve the tannin dye in very hot water and the iron powder in cold water.
  2. Combine the tannin dye and the dissolved iron powder in the dye bath.
  3. Add the fibers and gently rotate, pressing out air bubbles
  4. Keep at a cool temperature for 10-15 minutes, rotating goods gently
  5. Gradually heat the dye bath.  Rotate gently during this time to avoid heat spots
  6. Since iron strikes quickly, the dye bath does not need to heat above 140F.  Hold for 30-45 minutes, rotating occasionally.
  7. Remove the goods and rinse thoroughly.

Good tannin recommendations:

Gallo-Tannin (purplish gray)

Chestnut (elephant gray)

Pomegranate (olive drab gray)

If you want to get consistent results from dye bath to dye bath, weigh the dyes and other ingredients to achieve consistent results.  You should also be aware that different fabrics will produce different colors, even with the same dye recipe.

I have a shirt stained in the armpits and am wondering if natural dye covers the stains?

Perspiration stains are problematic because many commercial antiperspirant chemicals remain in the fabric and attract colors. So the armpits will often dye darker or discolor. It is possible that a very dark indigo overdye may help cover perspiration stains but we have also seen where the strong yellowing creates a green shade in the underarm area.

I have been dyeing with Turmeric (on cotton) because it gave me such a vibrant color. However I did not take into consideration how quickly it fades! Which natural dye would you recommend to use in place of Turmeric? I really appreciate it!

Turmeric is not stable for textile dyeing but if you are seeking a very bright and lightfast yellow, try weld.  It is not inexpensive but it is regarded as the brightest yellow.  Other excellent strong yellow shades are available from osage sawdust and fustic liquid. Make sure you are scouring the cotton first and mordanting the fiber for best results.