1. BASIC DYEING PRECAUTIONS
Pots must be non-reactive — not copper or aluminum or cast iron
— so they won't interfere with dyeing. Pyrex or enameled steel
(no chips on the inside) or stainless steel. When you're not applying
heat, plastic buckets or trash cans will do. Keep dye utensils separate
from food utensils. Keep mordants (especially tin and copper) away from
children and pets. Always wear rubber gloves while handling dyes and
mordants, especially when they're in liquid form.
Because Reed does not dye easily, it is necessary to help the bonding
along by adding a mordant. Alum and tannin (tannic acid) are the usual
choices. You can use just alum, or use alum and tannin together. Either
way, first soak your reed in warm water for about an hour; rinse well.
For each pound of reed, dissolve 2 ounces of alum (potassium aluminum
sulfate) in one half gallon of water. Heat to a simmer. Pour 2½
gallons of hot water into a 3-4 gallon container (bigger is fine). A
plastic bucket will work here, because this is as hot as it gets. Pour
in the alum solution, mix well. Add the soaked reed — lay it in
loosely, be sure it's completely covered. Crowding can cause streaking.
Let the reed soak in the mordant solution overnight.Deeper shades, and
sometimes more fast colors come from the combination of tannic acid
and alum. The tannin bonds easily to the reed and the alum to the tannin.
No natural dye is completely color fast on reed, but using tannin with
alum does improve fastness.
Alum and tannin
For each pound of reed, dissolve ½ ounce of tannic acid in
enough hot water to cover the reed, about 2½ gallons. Let the
reed sit in this mixture for at least 24 hours, 36 is better. Rinse
thoroughly. Dissolve 2 oz of alum in another 2½ gallons of hot
water. Dissolve 1 ounce of washing soda in two cups of water and add
to the new bath. Some chemical reaction between the alum and soda can
be expected — it is not a hazard. Again soak the reed for 24 to
36 hours--lay the reed in loosely, cover completely, don't crowd.The
mordanted reed can be used right away or dried and saved for later use.
Prepare your dyestuffs as each material requires. Any wool dyeing recipe
will work for reed--the colors will be lighter on reed, and not as fast.
Happily natural dyes fade evenly and in harmony with each other.Dyeing
is similar to mordanting. Prepare the dye liquor; heat it to a simmer;
mix with boiling water in a container large enough to submerge the reed
without crowding. Let the pot stand--from one hour to overnight, depending
on the depth of shade you want. Remove the reed in batches, if you like,
to get deepening intensities of the same color.Rinse the dyed reed in
cool water until the rinse runs clear. Hang reed to dry, giving plenty
of room between the strands (reed damp for too long will mildew). Make
sure the reed is completely dry before storing. When you presoak the
reed for use in a basket, put each color in a separate pan--there will
be some bleeding.If there is still color in the dyebath, you can save
it for later use: store in a sealed container, out of light, cool. It
will keep several days, possibly weeks, depending on the dye. Eventually,
you will have exhausted all the pigment, and there will be nothing to
The color of the dyebath can be altered by adding a secondary mordant
— Iron, Copper, or Tin.Dissolve the secondary mordant completely
in a small amount of your dye liquor. Mix this solution into the dyebath--with
no reed in the bath. Add the reed and let stand. Iron saddens (dims)
or darkens: use ½ - 1 teaspoon per pound of reed. Copper greens,
changing yellows to greens, softening blues and reds: use ½ -
1 teaspoon per pound of reed. Tin blooms or brightens: use 1/8 - 1/4
teaspoon per pound of reed.It's usually true that all colors from the
same dye and the same dyeing session, no matter how different they appear,
go well together.It is possible to heat the dye bath on the stove. This
will give you darker colors in less time. Remember you must use a non-reactive
pot for this. And always remember that the more you heat and handle
the reed, the more damage may be done to it.