Natural dyeing – Wood Ash Lye modifier

testing the pH of my wood ash lye - about a 12

testing the pH of my wood ash lye – about a 12

In all of the natural dyeing I’ve been doing (or hoping to do!) in the last little while, I read a little about using wood ash as a dye modifier. In Rebecca Burgess’ Harvesting Colour: How to find plants and make natural dyes, she notes that wood ash can be used interchangeably with soda ash to create an alkali after bath. In reading about fermentation dyeing, wood ash lye also came up, and further it came up in my experiment with my first woad harvest.

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Natural dyeing – Woad v1, 2019

Just a small amount of woad leaves from my first harvest

Just a small amount of woad leaves from my first harvest

Back last spring, I was excited to receive some woad seeds from a friend in Norway.

I’m unsure about the variety of woad these seeds were, but based on photos online, I suspected that they were European Woad ( Isatis Tinctoria ) versus Chinese Woad (Isatis Indigotica). The Chinese version apparently isn’t particularly good for dyeing, as it doesn’t have enough indigotin compared to the European variety.

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Natural dyeing – Rhubarb

Rhubarb dyed and mordanted wool, along with untreated wool

Rhubarb dyed and mordanted wool, along with untreated wool

Rhubarb leaf mordant

Along with chemical mordants like aluminum, copper, and iron, Jenny Dean also notes the use of staghorn sumac leaves, and oak galls as possible sources of natural mordants in Wild Colour: The complete guide to making and using natural dyes. These are rich in tannin she notes, which helps colour adhere and increases light and wash-fastness on vegetable fibres.

However, since I am LOVING spinning wool (and didnt’ love spinning hemp or flax that much in comparison) I really was interested to read about her recommendation for protein fibers – rhubarb leaves.  Continue reading

Natural dyeing – Iron dye modifier

Wool, silk, and linen pre-mordanted with oak galls, and then modified with iron

Wool, silk, and linen pre-mordanted with oak galls, and then modified with iron

Iron as a pre-mordant

In all of the natural dyeing I’ve been doing (or hoping to do!) in the last little while, I read a little about using iron as a pre-mordant instead of alum. In Rebecca Burgess’ Harvesting Colour: How to find plants and make natural dyes, she notes that while alum is used for most of recipes in her book, iron is useful in several.

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Natural dyeing – Oak Galls

Green oak galls

Green oak galls

I’ve read about oak galls and their place in dyeing and ink-making a little, and didn’t think too much of them – I don’t really think of oak trees in Calgary (compared to trips to Louisiana!) but while out for a walk (playing PokemonGo!) I noticed that one of the parks near me had cute little (young) oak trees. A closer look… and there were the weird clustered balls.

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