Natural Dyeing: Preparation

Basic Information

The best fabric to use for natural dyeing, is (surprise) natural fabric! But, I've also had some terrific success using fabric blends. The use of mordants is amazing - you never know unless you try. Prewash whatever fabric you decide to use in a gentle detergent such as Orvus Paste. You can purchase Orvus Paste from quilt and sewing stores, or you can find a large container of it at country Feed & Seed Stores.

Never-ever use pots or utensils that you'll use for food preparation! We can't stress this strongly enough. Many of the mordants can produce toxic fumes. Be certain to always wear rubber gloves and work in a well ventilated room. Keep your children and any pets well away from the work area at all times. Always remember to read up on the subject before you tackle any project.

Recipe Guidelines

The recipes are usually based on a pound of either fabric or yarn. Remember heavier fabric will absorb differently; common sense prevails. Always put your fabric/yarn into the dye bath wet. Some of your mordanted fabric can be used immediately, others need to dry initially. Be attentive to the type of mordant you use to assure good results.

Use a large enamel or glass pot only. Make certain that it's big enough for the fabric/yarn to float free and uncrowded for both the mordanting and the dyeing. Never allow sudden changes in the water temperature. Slow and steady increases please. When removing your fabric from the mordant bath, don't wring or stretch it. Gently squeeze out the excess water, then decide if you're going to let it try or use immediately.

When dyeing, be sure to keep the water level high enough to keep the fabric/yarn totally immersed. The water will boil down. Boil additional water and add to the bath as necessary; be sure to remove the fabric before adding the fresh water. Rinse the fabric well after the dye bath; allow to dry. Now wash in a gentle detergent and dry again.

After Thoughts

Respect Mother Nature

Natural dyeing is not a quick process, but it is a very satisfying one. We've provided just the 'tip of the iceberg' of information here. There are many good books on the subject and it would be a wise idea to read up, before pursuing your quest. Everything effects the dye color.

I remember staring in amazement at this glorious rose color, on poly-blend fabric from two year old, dry sawdust. All I could think was: how did I do that?

One other very important point: Don't over harvest an area. If we want to be able to continue to do natural dyeing, we need to respect Mother Nature.