FEEDBLACK FRIDAY: This Week in Natural Dye Questions

This week: Getting your holiday red on

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’m hoping to dye some habotai silk a “Holiday Red” or traditional Christmas red. I bought your Aquarelle Liquid Madder and was wondering if you had any tips to get the color correct. The label says it will yield a cherry red when a pinch of calcium carbonate is added. I’ve read that it will also make the red in Persian rugs. If I want a true red for the holidays, what do you recommend?

The way to a good red is:
-Protein fiber (silk or wool)
Mordant with alum @15-20% and possibly a very small amount of cream of tartar (like 1%) if using wool
-10-20% madder liquid wof and a little calcium carbonate
-If the color remains a little too “raspberry,” add a small amount (0.5 to 1%) cream of tartar to the dye bath to make it redder.

I’ve found that the liquid creates a very clear red with little of the orange or yellow undertone of the powdered extract, but it is a slightly lighter shade. You may need to increase the dye to 20-25% for a richer shade, especially on silk fabrics.

Cotton fibers tend to go rather brick or terracotta colored, but it is possible that using aluminum acetate mordant with a post-bath of calcium carbonate will yield a strong red.

If you have madder extract powder on hand, then the way to get a good red with this preparation is:

-Protein fiber (silk or wool)
-Mordant with alum  at 15-20%. I normally don’t have to add cream of tartar at all, but if the color is too burgundy, then 0.5% to 1% might help shift it to a redder shade.
-6-8% madder extract wof and 2% calcium carbonate. If the color is too orange, add 1% more calcium carbonate.

Good luck!