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Tuesday 10th May 2022

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

Last weekend I made my second trip to Ditchling to look at Adjective dyes. These are dyes require the use of a mordant in order for the colour to be fully developed and permanently fixed.

In her book, Colours from Nature, Jenny says that a mordant has; affinity with both the materials being dyed and the dyestuff being applied, so they act as a bond between the two. The majority of natural dyes fall into this third category.

At the museum we used Sappanwood, Cochineal and Madder and at home I experimented with Logwood and Weld. Modifiers were applied to all samples.




Preparing Logwood Dyebath

Logwood (15%) Samples drying on the line

I have really learnt a lot over the last few weeks – at home I have explored the process from start to finish several times over and am beginning to get the process straight in my mind. Building on what I learnt from the last session a few new things jump out as memorable;

1.Scouring is important to remove grease and grime and ensure the dyes fix evenly.

a. Allow enough water for the fibres to move freely.

b.Dissolve the washing soda in hot water first.

c.Always add the substance to the water not the other way round.

2. Cold Mordanting is an easy way to prepare fibres.

a. Vegetable fibres – need a tannin soak first, followed aluminium acetate soak.

b. Animal fires – need Alum soak.

c. Allow 24hours for each stage

3. Logwood (and percentage system)

I had a bit of trouble to start with getting my logwood right. I started with 10% logwood but as I only had 20g of fibres the amount of logwood was too low (2g) to give the purple dye bath expected. When I tried again with 15% the results were much better. We are lucky enough to have a group What App to discuss problems and Jenny concluded that Logwood can be used at 10% but more fibre and dye stuff is required.

4. Temperature

Extracting colour from dyestuff and applying to fibres should be done at simmering point. I found it difficult to establish this so I have been using a jam thermometer to help me. I think perhaps I have overheated some dye baths so a thermometer really helps.

Here are some images of dyeing with 100% Weld. This is definitely my favourite so far. The yellow is a beautiful clear yellow and the range of colours is extended to greens with use of modifiers.

Measuring dyestuff

Using muslin bag to contain Weld

Wetting out

Prepared dyebath

Preparing modifiers

Fibres in dyebath

Rinsing fibres


Applying modifiers

Weld 100% - Samples with modifiers applied.

Going through the process step by step like this has, I hope, consolidated my learning. Fingers crossed.......

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