FEEDBACK FRIDAY: This Week in Natural Dye Questions

This week on FEEDBACK FRIDAY: Maximizing color with assists and are liquid dyes prepared like extracts?

Every week for FEEDBACK FRIDAY, 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’m dyeing wool gauze with cutch and I usually use chalk (calcium carbonate) as an after bath post-mordant when I’m working w/ cellulose fibers. Is it a necessary w/protein fibers to get a dark, rich hue?

Cutch on wool with an alum mordant tends to shift yellow/gold/buff. If you are looking for a “chocolate” brown, it’s achievable by using an alum mordant, 20% cutch and a small percentage of iron in a post bath (like 1% or less). If you’re looking for an espresso brown, then cutch + walnut (and possibly iron) will create that color.

It is also possible to oxidize cutch by mixing it and letting it sit overnight or longer, which creates a deeper shade on any fiber or mordant variable. We also add soda ash, which changes the cutch to a deep russet. We’ve also rinsed cellulose fibers with a little soda ash after dyeing with cutch, which also moves the yellow shade to a cognac brown.

I want to try out your liquid dyes but not sure how to use them-are they like using extracts?

Our liquid dyes are just as powerful as the extracts but preparing them for fiber is a little different. We offer a “How-To” on our site but here’s some info for you:

  • Measure out the desired amount of dye(s). Add to the dye pot filled with enough water so the fibers move easily without excessive crowding. Stir the pot so the dye is evenly dispersed.
  • Add the yarn or fibers to the pot.
  • Begin heating the pot until it reaches 30°C/90°F. Rotate the fibers gently to avoid felting or tangles. Hold at this temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Bring the heat up to 90°C/200°F and hold for 30-45 minutes. The dyebath should look very light or nearly clear (exhausted). You may let the fibers cool in the dyebath until they are safe to handle, except for Saxon Blue. Remove Saxon Blue after dyeing. Rinse the dyed fibers in warm water.
  • If the dyebath still contains a lot of dye, add ¼(50 ml) cup white (distilled) vinegar and continue a low simmer for another 30 minutes, then let cool overnight in the dyebath. Rinse in cool water.

Have fun!