FEEDBACK FRIDAY: This Week in Natural Dye Questions

This week: Is it possible to use too much natural dye in a vat, foaming kamala and getting green with myrobalan

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.

Can you put too much natural dye in a pot? Like, does it actually work against you if you use too much hoping more extract will equal more color?

Normally larger amounts of dye extract will give you a darker shade, and I’m sure there’s a limit to how much dye can be absorbed due to the amount of mordant applied, the fiber, and the dye technique. If you think you are adding large amounts of dye and your color is still weak then you should evaluate the fibers used (cotton vs. wool), the mordant ingredient and the way that you dyed the fibers.

I want to try out your Kamala and just read that it needs 1% soda ash added to hot water in order to dissolve fully. Do you dissolve it first in the hot water and then add the dye or vice versa?

We normally put the Kamala in a container, add hot water, and then add soda ash and stir. However, sometimes adding soda ash to hot water causes excessive foaming, so it’s fine to dissolve the soda ash in a little hot water first, then add it to the container of Kamala.

I have a myrobalan question for you…
I am currently dyeing with myrobalan + an iron after bath and I am trying to figure out the refresh amount that will produce a similar green to the first bath. We have tried 50% and 75% refreshes but the yellow-ness of the myrobablan seems to be lacking, making the green a bit too gray. Do you have any idea as to why that is? I am going to try a 90% refresh today but it’s not that the color isn’t dark enough – it’s that it is more muted/tan that produces a more gray/green after it’s dipped in iron. I have also tried lower the iron amount and it has not helped. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

It sounds as if the yellow component of myrobalan is being consumed in the first bath, which is why you are getting a green with iron, and the tannins that remain from the first bath are overriding any additional myrobalan that you are adding. Recharging isn’t going to give you the results that you want and you will need to create a new dye bath. The other option is rather risky and that is to add a different clear yellow, but you may not be able to control the results to your satisfaction.