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Vegetable Dyeing Instructions

Dyeing Organic Cotton with Natural Vegetable Dyes

Instructions are for dyeing ½ pound of organic cotton fabric, yarn or fiber.  

 

Before dyeing, the fabric needs to be prepared. First, wash the fabric. Don’t dry it though – it needs to be wet. Then prepare the fixative or “mordant.” This is to help the fabric take up the dye more easily. Place the damp fabric in the fixative solution for an hour. Rinse with cool water when done. Then the dyeing process can begin!

 

Dyeing fabric, yarn or fiber with natural vegetable dyes requires three steps - mordanting, dyeing, and setting the dye.  To dye ½ pound of fabric, yarn or fiber, you will need:

 

  • 0.4 Oz Mordant - II (MORD100), or 5% of the weight of cotton to be dyed
  • 0.8 Oz Alum (ALUM505), or 10% of the weight of the cotton to be dyed
  • 1.6 Oz Dye Powder, or 20% of the weight of the cotton to be dyed.
  • 1.6 Oz Soda Ash (CHM1007), or 20% of the weight of the cotton to be dyed.
  • Vinegar
  • Scale for measuring the mordant and dye powders
  • Liquid Measuring Cup
  • Spoon for stirring solutions
  • Wide-Mouthed Jar for filtering mordant and dye solutions
  • Muslin for filtering mordant solution
  • Dye pot - an old enamel pot or electric crockpot make excellent dye pots.  These should be dedicated to dyeing and not used for cooking.  
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Dust Mask

Keep in Mind:  Although these dyes are made of vegetables and plants, they are not edible.  Containers and utensils used for dyeing should not be used for food. In addition, since these products are very fine powders, it's important to always wear dust mask when working with dyes and mordants.

 

Step 1 - Mordanting

Creating strong and lasting colors with natural vegetable dyes requires a 2 step process of mordanting with both Mordant - II and Alum:

 

Mordanting with Mordant - II

To mordant 1/2 pound of cotton, add 0.4 ounces of Mordant - II into 1 ¼ cups (533ml) of warm water.  Stir to dissolve.  Undissolved particles should be filtered out by pouring the solution through muslin secured to the top of an empty jar.  Wearing gloves, rub the residue on the muslin and pass more water through to dissolve mordant completely.

Add the filtered mordant solution to 5 gallons of water in the dyepot (a designated pot for dye use only).  Heat solution to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius), add fabric, and mordant for 30 minutes, maintaining temperature.

 

Mordanting with Alum

Dissolve 0.8 ounces of Alum into 1 ¼ cups (533ml) of warm water.  Filtering is not necessary, since Alum is soluble in water.  Add this solution mordant solution in the dye pot.  Bring temperature to 176 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius), and mordant for 30 minutes, maintaining temperature.  Cotton is removed and mordant solution is discarded.

 

Step 2 - Dyeing the Cotton

Dissolve 1.6 ounces of dye powder into 2 ¼ cups (1066 ml) warm water.  Undissolved particles should be filtered out by pouring the dye solution through muslin secured to the top of an empty wide-mouthed jar.  Wearing gloves, rub the residue on the muslin and pass HOT water through to dissolve mordant completely.  This process will need to be repeated many times until there is a very little residue left on the muslin, which will be discarded.

Dye solution is then added to 5 gallons of water at 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) in the dyepot, and stirred well.  The mordanted cotton is added, and the temperature is brought up to 176 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius).  Cotton is left in hot dye bath for 45 minutes.  

 

Step 3 - Setting the Dye

The dye is set by dissolving 1.6 ounces of Soda Ash in 1 ¼ cups (533 ml) warm water and adding this to the dye bath.  The cotton is left in this solution at 176 degrees for 30 minutes, after which the heat is turned off and left to sit for an additional 15 minutes.

The cotton is rinsed, cover with warm water and add 1 cup of vinegar.  Let this set for 15 minutes, then rinse.  This completes the dye process.

 

Care Instructions

Fabric dyed with vegetable dyes may be washed with regular detergents, in cool or warm water, and use low heat or hang dry.