FEEDBACK FRIDAY: Natural Dye Ink for Fiber Painting

Natural Dye Ink

This week: How to use natural dye ink for painting on canvases and clothing

Every week, we are emailed with questions from our natural dye community that are worth sharing. Of course, all of your burning questions are answered by natural dyer in chief, Kathy Hattori, Founder of Botanical Colors. This week we look at natural dye inks and how they work best on a number of fibers.

Do you know if your powdered dye pigments or inks can be suspended in tempera or beeswax?

Our dyes are water soluble. Natural dye ink is not water soluble but they are in a water base. If your medium is water based, then they should combine, meaning they won’t do well with beeswax, but tempera might work.

I purchased indigo dye ink and it arrived today. I would like to paint on cotton already dyed in an indigo vat but how does it actually work, as an additional dye or is it only on the surface of the fabric? Do I need thickeners?

Judi Pettite answered a number of questions about her ink. Use a small amount of thickener to make the color more controllable. Because it is in pigment form, it will need some type of binder to adhere it to the fabric.

Do dyes that are thickened with print paste thickener need to cure for a specific amount of time? I’m finding that the printed image washes right off of my pre-mordanted fabrics, almost as if they are just sitting on top of the fabric. The only variable that is new is the print paste thickener. Any ideas why this may be happening?

When your fabrics are damp dry (almost dry to the touch, but cool feeling on the skin), they will absorb the paste better. If the fabric is very wet, you will get blurry results. I don’t print on bone dry fabric as dried mordant fibers can be slightly resistant. That may be part of what you are experiencing. I cure the fabric after steaming and before washing, which helps a lot with washout. This means letting the piece air dry after it emerges from the steamer and letting it sit for several days. Also consider skipping steaming and cure for a longer amount of time. After that, wash the fabric and you will see an improvement with washout.

Some artists cure for 3-5 days, others cure for 3 weeks. Longer curing always works best. The other thing to keep in mind is that the print paste dilutes the dye, so make strong stock solutions and then add as little paste as possible to the stock when printing.