NATURAL DYEING: very basic instructions
Natural dyes may be animal, vegetable or mineral. These
instructions refer to the dyes in our starter set, which are all vegetable
dyes. And they refer to the dyeing of wool. Cotton, linen, silk and
other fibers can be naturally dyed, but it is harder to do, and not
suitable for first attempts Please also see our MORDANTING INSTRUCTIONS
for more complete information about this process.
PREPARATION OF WOOL
It is important to remove dirt and grease completely before dyeing.
Wash wool at least two times in warm, soapy water. Rinse till the water
runs clear. Skeins should not be over-large, and should be tied in several
places to prevent tangling. Ties should have tight knots and loose loops.
METHODS OF DYEING
There are three basic methods:
Mordant wool first, then add it to dye-bath.
Mordant and dye wool in the same dye-bath.
Dye wool first, than fix by mordanting.
We recommend pre-mordanting with alum, and using other
color-modifying mordants as additives in the dye-pot. This yields sets
of related colors. See MORDANTING RIFF.
AMOUNTS OF DYESTUFF REQUIRED (To dye one pound
Alkanet: 1 to 4 oz
Brazilwood Chips: 1 to 6 oz
Cutch Extract: 1 to 2 oz
Henna: 3 to 8 oz
Madder Root: 3 to 8 oz
Osage Orange Sawdust: 3 to 8 oz
Logwood Extract: 1/5 to 1 oz
PREPARATION OF DYE-BATH
Dyestuffs are generally put into cold water and heated slowly. Big pieces
should be broken up first. Some benefit from being soaked before heat
is applied. Most dyestuffs need to be boiled to extract the color (madder
should not be heated beyond a simmer; boiling releases brown dyes).
Powders must be fully dissolved. Twigs or bark or other bits and pieces
which may get snarled up in the yarn should be strained out before yarn
is added. Heat till color is released into the bath, then allow to cool
Dye-pots must be non-reactive (enamel is good) if you
want a clear color; iron or other metal pots will act as mordants and
affect your results. And they must be large enough for the amount of
wool to be dyed to spread out and move around freely, to avoid uneven
dyeing. Four gallons of water to one pound of fiber is about right.
Enter wet wool into a tepid bath. Heat slowly. Avoid abrupt temperatures
changes throughout, to minimize shrinking. Rough stirring causes felting;
be gentle. Dye until desired shade is reached, or bath is exhausted,
remembering that colors are darker on wet wool than on dry. Let the
bath cool, then lift wool out, carefully. Squeeze gently to remove excess
dye. Rinse till there is no run-off, and allow to dry.