FEEDBACK FRIDAY: This Week in Natural Dye Questions

This week: How to keep yarn soft when natural dyeing it, what’s the difference between our logwood dyes and how to get bubblegum pink

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

Would an oat soak bath work like a wheat bran bath with protein fabric wool and silk?

The purpose of the wheat bran is to help aluminum acetate (the common mineral mordant for plant fibers) become brighter and yield more saturated colors. Aluminum sulfate is the common mineral mordant for protein fibers and its use does not require wheat bran. So, if you wanted to try oat bran on cellulose fibers as a post-bath for aluminum acetate mordanting, it would be interesting to see your results!

Can you tell me the difference between the two logwoods you carry? The descriptions seem to be same. I am having difficulty recreating the rich purple tone I achieved on my first try. I am adding soda ash to get my water alkaline. 

Our regular logwood has a purple-brown base and works well for purple, gray, black and some brown shades.
Rich purple logwood is redder and brighter and makes a more vivid shade.
If you are not getting purple and getting something like a brown, check your mordant variable as cream of tartar added to the mordant process inhibits logwood development. The dye also works best with a heat, so heating the dyebath is best (make sure the goods are in the dyebath, don’t heat up the dyebath and put cold goods in a hot dyebath unless you want uneven results).

I bought some Quebracho Rojo extract from you for a commission piece that I’m working on and the client wants really pink pinks like bubblegum pink but I achieved more of a mauve color from it. Should I try distilled water instead of my well water? My water is definite;y hard with lots of calcium and other minerals.

With Quebracho Rojo on cotton, I would use about 10% wof and if possible mordant with aluminum acetate and wheat bran. If it’s coming out too purple, try adding a small amount of citric acid (like 1%) into the dye bath to see if it shifts the color pinker. I normally don’t advise adding an acid into a cellulose dye bath but if your water is highly mineralized, the pH may also be higher and a small amount of acid will lower it. Otherwise, if that’s not effective, try demineralized or reverse osmosis water. Finally, cochineal will create the most vivid pinks and saturated pinks on fibers if the customer wants to use that dye.