How to Prepare your fabric for Natural Dyeing
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We love natural dyes and natural dyeing. It's brilliant. Once you get started, we can assure you it’s very addictive.
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Most natural dyes require a fixative, which dyers call a mordant. These help the colours bind to the fabric. Washing, Scouring and Mordanting before the dyeing process gives the most reliable and consistent results.
So here is our our guide to preparing your fabrics in 3 easy steps.
To remove any grease from your fabric put it on a 40-degree wash with an ecological soap like ecover.
Place fabric straight from the wash into a pot with enough water for fabric to move around easily. Add some ecological soap (the same amount you would use in the washing machine). Bring the water to a boil if using plant-based fabrics or to a simmer if using protein based like wool then keep it at this temperature for an hour before turning off the heat and leaving to cool. Then rinse in cool water.
Whilst there are plant based mordants (we will discuss in a later blog) for consistency and simplicity now we recommend a mineral based mordant called Alum. Alum (potassium aluminum sulphate) is considered nontoxic light metal mordant and you can use it with protein and plant fibres. The effect of alum on fibres is much improved by using an “assist” to help the fibres absorb it completely. For plant fibres use soda ash to assist and for protein fibres use cream of tartar.
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Weigh the fibre after it has been washed, scoured and dried. Use 8% of the weight of the fibre in alum and 7% of the weight of the fabric in cream of tartar or soda ash.
Place the fibre in a pot and allow it to soak for at least 1 hour.
Fill a pot with water that allows the fabric to move around freely and be covered.
Dissolve the measured-out cream of tartar and stir with a long wooden spoon. Dissolve the measured-out alum and stir with a long wooden spoon.
Add the pre wetted fabric and bring the solution to a simmer, cover with lid and simmer for one hour. Stir occasionally to move the fabric and make sure it is being absorbed evenly.
Turn off the heat and allow fibres to cool in pot overnight.
Wring out excess liquid and rinse in cool water. Your fabric is now ready to start natural dyeing with! Use the damp fabric to add to your dye bathe.
Have fun, slow down and enjoy the process. When you are using natural dyes you will always create something beautiful. Good Luck!
Prim x Ness