FEEDBACK FRIDAY: This Week in Natural Dye Questions

This week: We posted about cream of tartar last week and you had questions…

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.

Is cream of tartar’s only purpose in mordanting just to soften the fiber? If you are using high quality fiber then is it really necessary to use cream of tartar along with alum as the mordant?

Cream of tartar is acidic, and helps maintain wool fibers so they are less likely to feel rough or sticky with alum mordanting alone, which is why many dyers add it to their mordant process. Because of its acidity, it also shifts colors to brighter shades. It’s not a requirement to use it, but if you have problems with alum making your wool fibers feel sticky or rough, then COT may be helpful.

Could I put some in the wash with an itchy wool jumper to soften it?

You can experiment, but I think that the itch may come from the type of wool used in the sweater.

So is the fermentation process of cream of tartar different from wine, which is also fermented grape juice?? This is so interesting thanks for sharing.

Cream of tartar is a byproduct of grape juice or wine fermentation. It is a sediment that comes from the process, and the most commercial COT comes from wine-producing regions.

Is there a difference between this and what I can find in the grocery store?

It should be the same product. Check the label and make sure it’s pure Cream of Tartar with no other additive.