Thursday, November 30, 2006

Note on Dye Stuff

When you are determining the amount of dye stuff to use in your dye pot, it is not the amount of water in the dye pot that determines the strength of the dye. The amount of water in the dye pot does *not* dilute the dye color. The amount of dye stuff is what determines whether the resulting color will be light or dark and the amount of dye material you put in the dye pot to be dyed. Generally you use the same weight of dye stuff that is equal to the material you are dyeing. So 4 oz of cane would require 4 oz of dye material. The dyed material, in our case, cane, will absorb the same amount of dye in 2 gals as in 4 gals of water, but you need to make sure you've added at least 4 oz of dye material. Then depending on how strong you want the color you can either add or subtract dye stuff from the initial amount used. If it is too strong, you might use it to dye another coil of cane in a lighter shade.

Natural dye colors often will not be consistent even when using the same dye stuff. Most natural materials require heat to extract the color. Powered dyed stuff can be mixed into a smooth paste with a little warm water then added to the dye pot and simmer for 1/2 hour. Generally you will need 1/2 the dyed material weight for the dye stuff. So with a 4 oz coil of cane you would need at least 2 oz of the dye powder. This will give you a strong dye pot, which you can then gauge from there whether you wish to add or subtract from that amount.

If you dye in a cool dye pot, then it can take several days to get the color you want. Some dye stuff also may require heat however for best results.

I would say, 2 cups of red onion is not 4 ozs in weight, so next time I'm going to double or triple the amount of red onions skins.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mordants and Modifiers

I must say this is an extremely interesting subject because if you pre mordant you will get various colors, then add the fibers to the dye bath the colors will dye depending on the type of mordant used and then if you add a color modifier after you dye the same fibers, you will get even more variations of colors. Fibers that are say pre mordant in all five mordants below will yield 5 different colors, then when these fibers are added to say a madder dye bath, you get 5 different colors again, then using the same dyed madder fibers and putting them in 5 different color modifiers you get another 5 different shades. So out of 5 different mordant fibers groups, you would get up to 15 different color variations.

The basic difference between mordant and color modifier is when you apply it to the cane. A mordant is applied before putting the cane in a dye bath. A color modifier is used after you have dyed the cane. If you use the all in one method, they probably become more color modifiers than mordants. Plain table salt or other salts are also considered a mordant, although they would probably not be considered color modifiers. Anything applied to the cane to help the color adhere to the cane would be a mordant and some mordants work better with some dye stuff than others. If the color modifier (mordant) is applied after dyeing then you are more likely to get a change in the original dyed material. Putting your cane in a mordant solution alone prior to dyeing it is said will help the dye *stick to* the cane, if you add it to the dye pot at the same time, the mordant has a tendency to adhere to the dye and leave the cane out of the loop, thus not being quite as affective. I think I really like blood get a really nice good clear or dark color with none of this fuss!!

The major types of Mordants are: Alum, copper, iron, tannin and rhubarb leaf solutions.

The major types of Color Modifiers are: Acid (clear vinegar), Alkaline (washing soda), Copper and Iron. Wood ash if you have a wood stove or fire place. Clear vinegar and ammonia can also be used as modifiers. One or two teaspoons of vinegar makes an acidic modifier and a few drops of ammonia makes an alkaline modifier.

So as you can see both copper and iron depending on when you add it to your fibers will give you a different result.

The mordants help the dye *stick* to the fibers so to speak and if added before you dye the fiber gives you also more control over the coloring process.

For color modifiers: 1 tablespoon of modifier crystals dissolved in 2 pints of boiling water will be enough for several applications because you only use 1 or 2 teaspoons of the modifier solution each time.

You can pre mordant, dye and then use more than one color modifier as well. Put the dyed fibers into one modifier and then put it into another. Sometimes more than one pot or kettle or bowl is necessary, since you need to keep the modifiers separate. The all in one method probably wouldn't work if using more than one mordant or modifier.

Actually it appears that any of the mordants can also be used as color modifiers, if used after the fiber has been dyed and any of the color modifiers can also be used as mordants. Tannin can be used as a dye, as can any of the other mordants, since they will give give a different shade to the original fiber. Tannin produces tans, copper a pale blue, alum a yellow and rhubarb a grayish tan.

All you need do is add 1 to 2 teaspoons of the mordant or color modifiers to a pot of water, 4 to 8 gals, although a gal would work, and stir well, then add your fibers. However, with color modifiers you won't be able to see the change if you add it to your dye pot, so making a modifier solution say with one gallon of water would seem to work as well. Then after you have dyed the cane you can then put it into the color modifier solution. You do not need to leave the cane in these modifiers for very long to see the changes. Just leave it in long enough to get the desired color and in some cases that may not be more than a minute, give or take a few seconds.

For acidic modifiers, most common is clear vinegar, add the dyed fibers and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the fibers when the color changes, rinse well. You can also do this in a cool solution, just take bit of vinegar say in a bowl, then a sample piece of your cane and dip it into the vinegar. This one will help some reds, as in my red onions. You should however, test any of these on a sample before immersing your entire coil of cane into the solution.

For alkaline modifiers, most common is washing soda (Arm & Hammer Soda) add the dyed fibers, no need to heat, soak them for about 1/2 hour, if the color change is not enough, remove the fibers and add more alkaline modifier and then add the fibers again. Repeat this until the desired color is achieved. Remove the fibers and rinse well. This one likewise can be done in cool water, this will turn towards yellows.

For copper add the fibers and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the color changes, remove the fibers and rinse well.

For iron add the fibers and simmer for about 5 minutes, remove fibers and rinse well. (this may not work with walnut - but I am certainly going to give it a try, watch for the results!). I did a couple of samples of iron modifiers and you really need very very little of this to change the color. My water was very light yellow and it still turned one sample grey, this was the cane that had the alum added to the dye pot while dyeing and the other really black, this was the cane that was dyed with red onion. So start with just a very little and if need be add more unless you want black, then a larger amount is needed.

Let's just say, you will probably get different color results with cane or reed than you do with wool. You also may or may not need more dye stuff for cane and reed than you would for wool.

Also remembering that Hamburg cane has already been *chemically treated* to remove the hard outer shell, so by rinsing and washing the cane first in a mild dish soap, this might make a difference as well.

Finished Basket Natural Dyes

This is the finished basket using the dyes below. As you can see, I think the red onion turned out way to light and the beets had too much alum added although it did turn out with a nice yellow and the pomegranate has too much iron in it which turned it quite black.

In the next batch I will try adding just 1/2 tsp of iron or less to the pomegranate but first I might try getting just a nice dark red color and also add less alum to the beets once again starting say with 1/2 tsp and working in more if needed for a more pale yellow and also trying just the beets to see how deed the red becomes.

To see photos of the blood root and walnut dyes in finished baskets click this link:

Friday, November 24, 2006

Red Onion Dyed Cane

This is the results of dyed cane with red onion skins. This looks very similar to the pomegranate dyed cane.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Red Onion Recipe

Red Onion Recipe.
  1. Add 2 gals of water to your dye pot, this time I added a tsp of water softener, we have hard water here in California so the water softener will result in removing some of the water impurities;
  2. Add 4 cups of Red Onion Skins, minimum; the darker you want the color the more onion skins you will need; putting the skins in a nylon to prevent floating dye material in the dye bath;
  3. Add 1 cup of salt, again I use plain table salt;
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil for 1/2 hour;
  5. Add your coil of cane;
  6. Simmer for an additional 1/2 hour;
  7. Remove from heat and let stand overnight.

Remember this method will work for any of the Onion Skins, Red, Yellow or Brown. The long you let it stand the darker the color will be as well. I have found the Brown Onion skins to produce the best color thus far, however, I added more than 2 cups of crushed skins.

With 2 cups of red onion skins, my cane was much too light as seen above. You might also add 1/2 or 1 cup of vinegar to your dye pot or after dyeing you would put the cane into a solution of vinegar to enhance the red color. Not sure this would work on the Brown Onions.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Alum Solution

This is the Alum Solution which you can use to soak your cane in before you add it to the natural dye pot. Although this is referred to in most text as a mordant, it is also a color modifier as you can see from what happened when dyeing beets with Alum added. Some texts will also tell you to treat your material with tannin solution before soaking it in the Alum Solution. The washing soda is added to the Alum Solution to help the material absorb the Alum. Tannin and Alum can both be purchased at most basket shops online as well or through Dharma Trading Company via their online shop.

Depending on how dark you want the dye bath, you can soak the material in Alum more than once but it is suggested you treat the material with tannin first.

Remember in most cases for a really deep and bright color result you will need to apply the alum mordant at least twice. You may also want to test your dye material to make sure the Alum will not modify the color as it did with the beets.

Alum Recipe when using 1 coil of commercial cane:

  1. Treat the material with tannin first; this likewise might give you a different result on the beets since I didn't use tannin in my beet dye pot;
  2. Fill your dye pot with 2 gals of water;
  3. Dissolve your Alum in about a cup of water before adding to the dye pot;
  4. Place 4 tsp of Alum in the boiling water and make sure it is dissolved and add it to the dye pot;
  5. Dissolve 2 tsp of Washing Soda (I used just plain Arm and Hammer Soda) in about a cup of boiling hot water, after it is completely dissolved, add it also to the dye pot (you'll get a lot of bubbles and fizzing when you add this);
  6. Now add the coil of cane to the dye pot;
  7. Bring the dye pot to a boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes and remove from the heat;
  8. Now let the material sit in the dye pot for 8 to 24 hours;
  9. Remove the cane and if you wish to apply another bath don't rinse the cane, just let it drip for awhile to remove the excess liquid and then let it dry over night;
  10. Now re wet the cane and add it to a second Alum Solution bath and repeat the above steps letting it sit in the Alum Solution for another 8 to 24 hours;
  11. Remove from the Alum Solution and before dyeing be sure and rinse it really well; note there is no dye material in this solution, this is just simply to add a mordant prior to dyeing the cane;
  12. Now add them to the dye color of your choice.

The all in one method just adds the dissolved Alum and Soda to the dye pot along with the dye material and cane.

Tannin instructions coming or are already above.

Remember, Alum can also modify your dye color, so you may want to experiment to see what it will do with your natural dye material.

Beet Recipe

I didn't get a photo of this in original form. I used the all in one Dye method for this batch which was probably a mistake, since the resulting color is quite surprising!

  1. Using my enamel dye pot I filled it with 2 gal of water;

  2. Add 4 medium size beets cut up and placed in your nylon stockings; my beets were probably about 3 or 4 inches in diameter, there should be about 1 cup of dye material;

  3. Add 1 cup of salt, plain table salt;

  4. Add 3 tsp of Washing Soda, I used plain Arm and Hammer Soda;

  5. Add 3 tsp of Alum;

  6. Boil your mixture for about 1/2 hour and then add your coil of cane;

  7. Simmer for 1/2 hour and remove from heat;

Depending on how dark you want the material, you will let it sit in the dye pot overnight.

Generally the dye material is first soaked in an Alum solution, this solution is used to help the dye adhere to the dyed material better and it also gives the dye a clear color.

As you know beets are a deep red and when cooked much of that juice is a nice deep red as well and would probably make a really pretty deep red color on commercial cane depending on how long you let the cane sit in the dye and the amount of beets you use. However, since I used the all in one method for this dye batch, I will never know. I think this is one disadvantage to using the all in one method for dyeing, you don't get to see the original dye material in it's natural state.

The dye was originally red from the beets, then turned a nice golden orange and then flipped over into a quite vibrant yellow. This is probably a result of the Alum and/or Soda that was added.

Using just the beets and table salt would probably give you the deep red color only from the beets, which I'll try next time.

The top photo is the cane wet and the bottom is the cane dry, it came out a real nice ecru color. And this from Beets with Alum and Soda added.

I would probably not add the alum or washing soda to this if you want a nice red dye and once again you may want to increase the amount of beets used for dyeing. I also might try a vinegar color modifier to enhance the red.

Pomegranate with Iron added after Dyeing

I added 3 tsps (I would start with just 1/2 tsp of this solution and then add more as needed to get it as dark as you'd like) of the hot Iron Solution to my Pomegranate Dye Pot and brought the entire mixture to another boil. I simmered it for another 1/2 hour and this is the resulting color. So as you can see, Iron is going to make your dyed material a darker color. If you want it lighter, you would use less Iron Solution. This particular photo of the cane is still wet, so it likewise is going to be lighter when it drys.

Looks a lot like my Walnut Dyed Cane and this could probably be used as a substitute for the Walnut.

Iron will always make your dyed material more muted and dark.

Next up is dyeing with beets.

Iron Mordant or Color Modifier

I use the crystals you can purchase at most basket shops or Dharma Trading Co. I also dye one coil of commercial cane at a time, which weights a little over 4 oz., so I round it to 5 oz. when preparing dye materials.

  1. 1/4 cup of water;
  2. Bring the water to a boil;
  3. Add 3 tsps of Iron crystals, stir well to make sure all the crystals have dissolved;
  4. The resulting mixture is a yellowish/brown liquid, just like you find if you were to put rusty nails or other rusty material into a jar of water and let it sit for several days and this indeed is another way to make iron solutions;
  5. I then added 3 tsps of this Iron Solution to my Pomegranate Dye Pot.

Pomegranate Recipe

I use a stainless steel stock pot for dyeing with iron mordants.

  1. Add 2 gals of water to your dye pot;
  2. Add 2 large Pomegranates cut up into small pieces, this can be dried or fresh. I just happened to use a fresh one. I cut the entire fruit up including the skin; put the pieces in a nylon stocking so that you will not need to strain the dye material before putting the cane or other material into the dye;
  3. Add 1 cup of salt. I use plain table salt;
  4. Now heat the entire mixture and boil it for at least 1 hour;
  5. After 1 hour add the cane and simmer for 1/2 hour;
  6. After 1/2 hour remove from heat and let stand over night.

The resulting color is shown in the photo above. Alum or Iron can also be added. Alum is usually added before dyeing but the Iron is considered a color modifier and is added after dyeing. You can mix these right into the dye pot all at the same time or you can put your cane into an Alum mixture before adding the cane to the dye pot. I am using Iron as a color modifier so I have dyed the cane using just the pomegranate and then added the Iron after I let it sit overnight because I want to see how the color is changed.

Judging from the color results I would likewise use more than 1 pomegranate for this, probably 2 at minimum and 4 for a nice dark color.


This is the ordinary Pomegranate you find in the grocery if you live in an urban area. I was indeed amazed at the color that resulted thus far. Although this is very red and the juice is red, the resulting colors are more brown in nature.