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I love dyeing fibre. I get to putter around the kitchen and mix things and get something beautiful at the end.

When I started dyeing I started with weak acid dyes. They work really well and you get great colours.  When I was studying Interior Design we had a colour theory class where we were given a colour sample and we had to get the same shade through mixing primaries and white and black. It was lots of fun and I always got the shade.  Dyeing with acid dyes was similar, you could pretty much apply the same theories to get the colour you wanted. Not exactly because there is no white but you could play with the concentration to get the tint you wanted.

Then I started to read about natural dyes. I loved how the colour of the dye did not necessarily give the same finished colour. Also depending on what you mordanted with, you would get a different colour. You could change the colour again after with a different treatment. It opened up a whole new world. One dye giving material could produce many different colours.

It also appealed to me that this is the method that has been used to dye fabric for thousands of years.  The colours are more earthy and not as pure as synthetic dyes but they also don’t look as fake. They are truly more natural.

Up until now I have not been documenting my dye experiments. I have been thinking that I need to have a recorded sample book of the different colours I produce. If I want my products to be repeatable I need to have dye formulas. So I have designed a dye experiment.

I have 10 dyes materials in my cupboard: henna, cutch, lac, alkanet, osage, cochineal, logwood, madder, marigold and indigo. The wool will first be split in half, half will be mordanted with alum, the other with iron. Each mordanted wool sample will be dyed with each dye except indigo. Indigo does not need mordanting and follows a different procedure. Each dye sample will be blended with the other dye samples. For example, alum + henna will be blended with alum + cutch, an other alum + henna sample will be blended with iron + lac, etc. Each sample will also be overdyed with indigo.

So for each dye there will be a pure sample each mordanted with alum and iron, a sample overdyed with indigo and a sample blended with each of the other dye samples. At the end I should have a huge range of colours.

Later I can redo the experiment with different concentrations of the dyes but this will be a great starting point. It will take many dyeing days but it will be fun. I will of course be posting about each one and the final finished colour binder.

So stay tuned for the great natural dye experiment!

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