Video From LIVE FEEDBACK FRIDAY: Kathy Hattori Q&A

This week’s FEEDBACK FRIDAY was all about Botanical Colors’ Founder/President, Kathy Hattori for a Q&A.

Watch the video recording here:

…and here are a bunch of questions Kathy didn’t get to that she’s answered:

I would like to know how to work with a lump of logwood extract that got damp. maybe in a blog post?

Yes, we’ll put a post together that talks about stock solutions.

I have mixed old nails with vinegar and the liquid started foaming. What is happening?

It sounds like it was a reaction from the metal and the vinegar.  Perhaps some of the nails were not iron.

 What is the longevity of cochineal (shelf life).  What about freezing the bug?

Dry whole cochineal insects will stay good for a long time.  Ground cochineal (ground up whole cochineal) should be kept airtight.  Freezing might be helpful.

How about the shelf life of chemicals? Aluminum acetate?

I’ve heard that aluminum acetate has a shelf life, but I’ve never encountered an issue using it, even if it was several years old.

In one of the Feedback Fridays, you mentioned that sometime you put copper pipe into dye baths.  Could you explain what dyes baths you are utilizing/how you use copper pipe?

Logwood and madder seem to yield richer shades if I use a copper pipe or a copper dye pot.

 I asked the question about sprinkling the yarn, thanks. What do you do after? you boil it, steam it?

You can steam set it, wrapped in plastic or set in a dish.  Some people wrap their fabric in plastic wrap and microwave it but you need to be careful not to scorch it.

Suggestion for dyeing Sally Fox cotton knit with marigolds?

I would mordant for cellulose and use a lot of marigolds for a very rich shade.

I’m getting ready to set up some big indigo vats and have some 2 yr old indigo extract.  Is that still good to use?  It’s mostly been in a shaded shelf or still in original shipping envelopes.

Indigo is in pigment form so it’s very shelf-stable as long as its kept away from heat, light and moisture.

To preserve avocado pits and skins, is it critical to freeze them so you can keep them longer?

Rebecca Desnos recommends freezing both the pits and the skins, but if you want to dry them for storage, the skins dry well and the pits dry satisfactorily.  She also says that cleaning the avocado flesh from the skins and the pits is important.

Have you ever worked with/supplied any costume designers/makers? If so, could you tell me some more about that, and if not do you ever see natural dye used in costume?

We have worked with theater designers and they use natural dyes.  We dyed the colors for this artist and her work Crystals of Transformation.

A pre-tannin bath? Do you rinse tannin-treated fabrics before mordanting them?

Acacia is the tannin bath, and is often much darker and browner than symplocos, and it is different because it contains tannin, but no alum. Do not rinse before mordanting.

I’d love to hear your recommendation for a fabric source. I see a big price difference from Dharma and Maiwa. I’m a newbie hobbiest so not looking to spend $50 on scarves to experiment on!  

Dharma carries mass-produced, value-priced goods and Maiwa has worked with village handweavers and other artisan suppliers for at least 20 years and designs the scarves and shawls that they carry.  Hence the higher price and much higher quality. If you are looking for unique fabrics and just starting out, vintage linens from the thrift store might be an option.  You can get a large damask cotton or linen tablecloth, napkins or placemats to use for numerous experiments, and they aren’t very expensive.  Just be sure it isn’t polyester.

Differences in preparation, use, time and results for 60% reduced indigo crystals vs. non-reduced?

Pre-reduced indigo is a synthetic indigo and is formulated much stronger and faster to use than natural indigo. We, however, prefer the ritual and process of working with natural indigo.

How do you dye with lichen?

Check out this book from Karen Casselman.

In Aboubakar’s class we pre-mordanted our cellulose fabric with soda ash; what’s the best to use with protein fibres?

Scouring with soda ash removes wax and pectin from cellulose.  You can use a neutral soap for protein fibers. Check out how to scour on our website.

I made a fructose indigo vat, I didn’t use it. It does not have the flower anymore, does that matter? Its been 2 months.

If you can heat it in a water bath or with a bucket heater, do that first.  Then after it’s about 90-100 F, stir it well and let it settle.  If the liquid is clear and yellowish, brownish or golden green, it is fine to use.  If it is dark blue, add more henna, iron or fructose to reduce, stir well and wait until it clears and turns to a yellowish color and then it is fine to use.

Do you feel that a copper pot for eco-dyeing will produce the most intense colors

I really can’t say. I’m not that skilled in eco dyeing. I feel if you use a dye plant or dye flower as opposed to foraged plants or non-dye flowers, you will get better colors.

Is cold mordanting as good as mordanting with heat.

It depends on the mordant and the fiber, but cellulose can be mordanted cold, as can silk and wool. It takes a bit longer, but it’s great if you want to save energy.

Water use. In Joy and Catherine Ellis’ book it was the first time I saw the 30:1 ratio for tannin bath. Are there any other ratios that you use regularly for dye stuffs or other goods – I’ve always used the “does the fabric flow well” idea – eyeing it rather than measuring it. Thoughts on ratios?? 

Ratios are commonly used in commercial dyeing, and so we use them all the time.  Do what works for you 😉

I dyed both logwood and madder root plus iron afterbath, squeezed lemon juice and it bleaches out. Is it iron? Is it both dyes?  INDIGO  seems to be fine.. please help!

Lemon will discharge many dyes.  I’ve heard that immersing the garment in a mild ammonia solution will help restore the color.

Any suggestions on which indigo process works best on silk for a clear blue.

We get nice blues from 1-2-3 vats but we also soak the goods afterwards with vinegar to clear the film from calcium hydroxide.

What percentage do you recommend for “re-charging” an alum mix that has been used already?

We recommend 50% to recharge.

Do you think rust remains on items that are rust dyed using old rusty nails/objects?

I believe it does- otherwise you would not really have any color where the object was printed.  I am not a huge fan of using iron for dyeing as it makes fibers brittle, and it’s easy to overuse it.

If I dye with purple cabbage with sodium bicarbonate (to get green), and then soak in an indigo vat, will the color stay?

I think the indigo will influence or discharge the purple cabbage.  You might get more successful color by dyeing in indigo first, then overdyeing in cabbage, as the indigo does not react with the sodium bicarbonate or other chemistry.

Is there a way to keep yarn from “blooming” during scouring.  I’m worried what will happen to the quality of the yarn after scouring, mordanting and dyeing with heat.

I’m assuming you are referring to wool or animal fibers. Yarn dyeing requires a very careful processes to avoid over-handling from scouring and mordanting to dyeing. There are many very fine natural dyers who specialize in fine wools and I am in awe of their skills. They are all careful and deliberate dyers because they know that it’s easy to ruin their yarn.

What Botanical Colors Does:

We’re here to offer a solution. Botanical Colors supplies artisans and industry with the materials and know-how to dye textiles in a way that uses less water, is non-toxic and biodegradeable and draws its incomparable color palette from humble plants and natural sources. All colors are sustainably derived, many from agricultural and food waste products.

Along with our beautiful natural dyes, we fully support the reshoring movement to bring textile jobs back to the U.S. Our studios are in Seattle, Washington where we offer production dyeing and do fulfillment. We also partner with other dye studios worldwide offering consulting.

Next week…

Join us September 18th, 9am Pacific, 12 pm Eastern for a live Zoom FEEDBACK FRIDAY with Babs Behan.

Babs Behan is a natural dyer and specialist of non-toxic inks and printmaking and bio-regional, regenerative textile systems. She is also the author of Botanical Inks Plant-To-Print Dyes, Techniques and Projects Founder of Botanical Inks non-toxic natural dye studio and the Bristol Cloth project.



If you are not familiar with FEEDBACK FRIDAY, every week, we speak with dyers, artists, scientists and scholars about our favorite topic, natural dyeing and color. Curated by Amy DuFault, Botanical Colors’ Sustainability and Social Media Director and presented by Botanical Colors’ Founder  Kathy Hattori.