FEEDBACK FRIDAY: This Week in Natural Dye Questions

This week: softening fibers post-mordanting and how do you get a deep red with raw madder root?

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 was curious if you could recommend anything to soften the fibers after mordanting and dyeing? Especially after using Iron I’m sure you know that tingy texture the fibers can take on… is there any way this can be remedied besides time and washing?

It’s possible to use a textile softener in the final rinse bath – check online for products from Seventh Generation or other responsible laundry soap producers. If you are seeing a radical hand feel change after dyeing, review the amount of mordant and iron you are using. For mordanting, a small amount of cream of tartar will help maintain softness in wool, but it will shift colors as well, so test first. If iron is causing stiffness, then try using a smaller amount to achieve the effect.

How do I deepen my raw madder root to be that red I see other people getting?

To redden and deepen the color, add calcium carbonate (Tums or chalk) at 3-5% weight of madder root, and hold at temperature for another 30-60 minutes for burgundy shades.