Dy(e)ing All Over The Place – Part 1

 Example of fabric dyed by Rachel Dawson

Yesterday and today I have been on a workshop organised by WEA (Workers’ Educational Association) and held at Helmshore Textile Museum. The workshop was on dyeing with natural dyes. Our tutor was Rachel Dawson.

Rachel began by giving us an overview of dyeing, the sorts of plants that can be used, both indigenous and non-indigenous, the variations of colour when using different parts of the plant and the processes to be undertaken i.e. scouring and mordanting. We then began scouring the fabrics that we were going to be dyeing. We used soda ash for the scouring. We began by bringing water to the boil in a stainless steel pan, adding the soda ash, stirring it to dissolve it and then adding the fabrics. The heat was turned down and the mixture was simmered for 45 minutes.

Mixed Fibres and Fabrics being mordanted

The next stage was mordanting. Mordanting prepares the fabric so that it will take the dye and the dye will fix. There are various substances that can be used for mordanting: alum sulphate, iron, urine, glaubers salt and wood ash, amongst others. Each mordant produces a different effect with the same dye. For example, wood ash creates a duller effect than alum sulphate. The amount of mordant to be used is a percentage of the weight of fabric to be dyed. 
For a light colour use between 1% and 5%.
For a medium colour use between 5% and 10%.
For a dark colour use between 10% and 20%.

Heat water in the dye pot, stir in the mordant then add the fabric. Bring the pot to the boil then simmer it for about an hour. Rinse the fabric in clean water.

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