NATURAL DYEING PART II
While it took me longer than planned to complete my first dyeing experiment in the lab, I am happy to say that after a tannic acid bath and an alum mordant, I finally dyed my cotton! I chose brazilwood as my dye for its beautiful depth and range of red hues. Remaining open-minded and happy with whatever outcome, I secretly hoped for a sweet raspberry red color for my scarf and cotton yardage. Ultimately I was eager to see ANY result at all and find that the lengthy mordanting steps truly made a difference for my fabric.
One thing I found interesting in regards to the whole process is that the dye bath is a rather short step in contrast to the overnight mordanting steps taken in preparation. It really feels like days of work and all this build up literally boils down to 30 min of soaking in a brazilwood liquor. It did require 1 hour of simmering in the brazilwood before I could strain it into the larger pot and add my fabric but an hour and a half felt rather manageable as a waiting period for this impatient newb.
Again following Liles recommendations I boiled 4 ounces of brazilwood in 2 quarts of water for 1 hour. Then I strained it and added the liquor to 6 gallons of water set to 125 degrees. I added my scoured, mordanted fabric to the pot and let it sit for 30 minutes at that heat. I then turned it off and left it in the pot for another 30 min. while I finished up some other projects. This last step wasn’t a recommended tip. It was done out of convenience but I’d like to think letting it come to room temp in the dye bath helped the dye set.
The question is how can natural dye become the more sustainable practice? Is there a potential to produce small batches of naturally dyed cotton at a competitive rate to other small fashion lines? Using a single mordant for multiple batches of cotton could work, as well as running several batches in a single natural dye bath to really make the most of the dyes, chemicals, and water being used. I can name the labels that use natural dyes on one finger: a company called Older Brother who originated here in Portland, OR in 2013.