Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Natural Dye Sample Project: Part 1

Several years ago, a few friends and I set out on a quest to dye ten different fibers with ten different natural dyes.

We also wanted to see what differences we could get on the fibers with different pre-mordants.

And post-mordants.

And afterbaths.  

It turned into kind of a big deal.    A big, glorious, messy, complicated, time-consuming, natural dye deal that took us about 2 1/2 years to complete.


It's done.    Ta-DA!
And we have these wonderful books full of natural dye samples to use as reference now.

This is how we organized things:  

The fibers:   linen, cotton, rayon, tencel, bamboo, silk, wool, superwash wool, alpaca and mohair.

The dyes:  logwood, cochineal, brazilwood, madder, walnuts, apple twigs, osage orange, goldenrod, comfrey and indigo.

The pre-mordants:  alum/tartaric acid, tin, nothing.
The post-mordants:  tin, copper, iron, nothing.
The afterbaths:  ammonia, nothing. 

For each fiber, for each dye we have a page that lists every combination of pre-mordant, post-mordant and afterbath,  Blow this pic up to see the details of the sample sheet.

We  also had a section for notes that tells us exactly how we did the dye, etc.  Notes are important.    Because I don't remember a blasted thing anymore.

Here's a pic of the notes we took on using walnuts.   Walnuts give gorgeous brown dyes, but it takes a couple of days to pull the color out of them.     That's the kind of thing you want to remember.

It took forever to punch all the holes in the cardstock, and then attach all the samples, but it was worth it.   [We tried drilling them,].   There are 90 sample cards and 24 different combinations of mordants on each page. [A couple of cards have more than one set of samples.]   That is 2400 different dye samples all organized in binders for each of us. 

No wonder it took 2 1/2 years.

Tomorrow, I'll show you the fibers that dyed the best and talk a bit about the process. 


  1. You should mention that we didn't work continueous for 2 1/2 years, just a day here and there. But oh boy the FUN we had.

    Maybe we should do it all again.

  2. What a great learning experience! I'd love to hear more about your loom and weaving. I'm going to be taking classes soon - can't wait! Made candied ginger yesterday - your directions were great! It's so good - love the syrup!

    1. Thanks for the reminder, Janice. I'll start working on some weaving posts.


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