FEEDBACK FRIDAY: This Week in Natural Dye Questions

This week: Iron contamination, stainless steel dye pots and overnight in the dye bath? Hmmmm…

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 have a tannin bath that was tainted with splashes of iron. Is it usable just as if it wasn’t tainted as long as I use it to dye charcoal/black, ie: tannin with iron afterbath?

Should be fine if you are already using iron and a dark color as you have noted.

Will you please clarify to what extent stainless steel must be use in botanical dyeing processes.

You want to have non-reactive pots and tools. Iron and lightweight aluminum are reactive and change the color of the dye bath. Enamel pots are fine, if they are unchipped and not rusty.

Is it only important when dye & fibers are together? Is it important in mordant stage? Drying on rack, etc.?

It’s important throughout the process, including drying. You are trying to avoid unwanted color changes and contamination.

I have tried the “let sit in dye bath overnight to deepen colors” method & almost always end up with results that only leave me the choice to eco print as the irregularities and splotches are horrendous. Seems this method may only work if textile is extremely thin & is constantly agitated?

I would avoid it if you are having issues with uneven dyeing.

Having problems with splotches that resemble sweat marks on immersion dyeing solid silks. Recent experience baffled me as I had 12mm charmeuse (1 yd piece) & 16.5 mm charmeuse camisole in same bath with almost continuous stirring.

Splotchiness usually is from having the heat too high too quickly so the dye strikes the fabric unevenly.  Or, the dye pot is too small and the goods get crowded.  If the camisole is uneven at the underarm area, that is from sweat or oil and is very difficult to remove from the fabric prior to dyeing.