FEEDBACK FRIDAY: This Week in Natural Dye Questions

This week: mordants mixed with print paste thickeners and what’s up with lac dyes and citric acid?

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 spoke with Dharma Trading concerning adding a mordant directly to your print paste thickener, as opposed to pre-mordanting my fabric. I dye lots of yardage, so soaking a huge amount of fabric at a time is not realistic. They said they had experimented at their facility and it was possible to work in this manner. Do you agree? What would be the instructions if working with wool, versus working with cotton or linen?

It’s possible to add the mordant directly to the thickener, but your results are better if you can also somehow mordant the fabric. The trick is to get the mordant on the fabric as far in advance as possible. If working with wool fabric, the mordant can be applied the night before using a spray bottle, allowed to penetrate the fabric and then make your paste and print in the morning. Again, since I don’t know your situation, not sure how possible this is for you. The fabric can dry with the mordant on it, and then just rehydrate the fabric to your needs prior to printing. Add some mordant to the print paste as well for best results. Hope this helps!

Lac has such rich tones! Do you find the citric acid helps the powder dissolve better?

Lac is the byproduct of shellac production, so it contains some resin residue. We like to mix lac with boiling water and let the residue settle, then pour off the liquid, leaving the residue behind. This process can be repeated then discard the residue. Citric acid helps this process and 3% on the weight of the dye (not the wof) is the right amount to use.