You Asked, Kathy Answered: Going Grassroots With Tannins

We get lots of emails from customers about challenges with dyeing and needing Botanical Colors’ President Kathy Hattori’s help. Why not share the learning so we can all benefit? From our inboxes to you, it’s simple: You Asked, Kathy Answered. Email questions@botanicalcolors with your plea for help!

YOU ASKED: I want to create gray on cellulose by using an oak gall tannin followed by an iron modifier; my question is should I rinse the tannin before modifying?

KATHY ANSWERED: According to Catharine Ellis, the tannin treatment is not super strongly bonded to the fiber until the alum is added, so if you do need to rinse because there’s sediment on the fabric, then a gentle rinse is recommended.

YOU ASKED: I’ve read that natural dye materials with a high tannin level don’t need a mordant to dye wool. I have a rain barrel that collects run off from the roof. The roof is under a huge maple tree, which over the course of the seasons drops the flower clusters, seeds, leaves and sticks onto the roof. This turns the run off water in the rain barrel a brownish color. Which I believe is due to the tannin in these items. If I use this water when for soaking the fibers and making the dye bath, do I need a mordant? I realize that it could affect the end result, probably dulling or tipping the color towards a brown/tan.

KATHY ANSWERED: It sounds as if this water contains tannin, and you can experiment and see what the results are using the method you are describing. If you get results that you want to change, then you can always post-mordant with aluminum sulfate to brighten or bloom colors.

YOU ASKED: I’m curious about using tea as a tannin treatment. Is this something you’ve come across or had experience with? I ask because I was out of all my tannin options recently and in a pinch I ended up brewing some old Puerh tea, which is partially fermented tea and brews extremely dark, as my tannin wash. I think it worked since I followed it up with the alum and soda ash treatment and got great results from your madder liquid dye but I wonder if I got good results despite using it.

KATHY ANSWERED: Tea is definitely a tried and true homebrew tannin and I’m glad it worked for you!

Interested in an entire online class on tannins? Sign up for BACK TO BLACK – Tannin Blacks with Cara Marie Piazza!