This week: Mordanting like Native Americans once did, mobile natural dyeing and fresh leaf indigo vs. extract.
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:
I have been experimenting with natural dyes for a while. I know that to mordant cellulose fibers you must use aluminum acetate, but I was wondering if there was something that I may be able to harvest myself in order to mordant my fabrics? Or if you can key me in on how to obtain aluminum acetate myself without purchasing online? I’m wondering what did the Native Americans use?
Is the fresh leafed indigo method as light and wash fast as the extract indigo vat methods?
Since the fresh leaf method really only works on silk and wool fibers, I would guess that the answer is no, but it seems to have pretty good resistance to light and washing. I have a number of pieces that are 4 years old, and they have been sitting by a window with no fading.
Can you tell me if you can get any kind of substantial color by dip-dyeing a mordanted piece of cotton fabric into a jar of any of your dye extract colors that has been dissolved, heated, and cooled? We are trying to get a mobile natural dye station as part of our kids activities, and wondering how and if we can do this with some pre-prepared dyes in big glass jars. Thinking many kids, limited time.
It is possible, but I don’t know what the effect will be. If there is enough dye in the jar, it will color the fabric, so maybe the answer is to make sure you have enough dye to dye the darkest value. Cooking it beforehand may also help with increasing the depth of shade. If you are at all open to using wool, you may get better results.