FEEDBACK FRIDAY: This Week in Natural Dye Questions

This week: scouring, reducing, hydrating and are fresh flowers better than dry flowers for natural dyeing?

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.

Is there another method of scouring that doesn’t use soda ash? Since soda ash is a modifier it keeps changing my outcomes.

I’m assuming you are scouring cellulose or other plant fibers. If the fibers are thoroughly rinsed, there should not be any residual soda ash to act as a pH modifier. You can check this by measuring the pH of your final rinse water.  If pH is above 7, then rinse until the water is at 7 (pH neutral) which indicates that the alkalinity of the soda ash has been neutralized.

Do fresh flowers produce better results than dried flowers?

My observation is that they produce different results. In some cases, the fresh flower creates a completely different color, and in other cases, the color may be slightly deeper, or have a different shade. It appears that eco-printers prefer fresh flowers as they are easier to use and more pliable.

Would it be appropriate to ask how Aboubakar reduces the indigo?

The vat method that Aboubakar teaches in workshops is the 1-2-3 vat due to the easy availability of ingredients and wide range of temperatures it can tolerate. We use fructose for reducing the vat.

I just want to be sure I understand the calculation for the amount of madder to use to achieve the living coral color. Are you using madder powder or madder extract?
You say to use .5% or 1/2 of one percent of madder.
450g of wool X .5% = 2.25 g of dye. Is this correct

We are using madder extract. You can round up the percentage to 2.3 grams if your scale measures only tenths of grams, and yes, your math is correct!

So you don’t find it all that necessary to hydrate indigo before using it in the vat?

We definitely hydrate and if we have time, we hydrate the indigo longer. I just don’t care for the marble method, though I’m told it’s quite effective.  We tend to make a paste of hot water and indigo and let it sit for about an hour. If we are creating a vat for production, we hydrate the paste overnight.