FEEDBACK FRIDAY: This Week in Natural Dye Questions

This week: How to keep yarn soft when natural dyeing it

Every week, we are emailed with questions from our natural dye community asking simple and complex questions that we thought might be worth sharing. Of course, all of your burning questions are answered by natural dyer in chief, Kathy Hattori, Founder of Botanical Colors.

I have been dyeing non superwash Merino wool and alpaca yarn for a few months now and it seems the yarn is never as soft as when it comes from the mill. It does soften after the final wash and rinsing, but never seems to have the same hand as before the scouring, mordanting (down to 5 tbsp per lb out of fear of astringency and no difference), dyeing and rinsing. I try to be as careful with agitation and temperature changes as possible and am just wondering if that is just a normal part of the textile dye process. Should I not be (carefully) pressing water out at all and just let drip dry? I will try to add cream of tartar when mordanting this next round and see if I can tell a difference. Thank you!

Both alum and some of the natural dyes will affect the hand of the fibers somewhat. At 5 Tablespoons per pound, you are still mordanting at 16.5%, so you could drop that in half and see if that helps with the hand of the fabric.

Cream of tartar will definitely change the hand to a softer feel but be aware that the additional acidity will turn logwood brown rather than purple and madder orange rather than red. Still it may be preferable for you. It’s a good experiment to try!

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