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A perfect mordanting

A perfect mordanting is the secret for achieving the best dyeing

The mordanting process, in  fact,  is the necessary procedure to prepare the fibers for dyeing with natural dyes in order to facilitate bonding between the fibers and natural dyes, and making them stable.

Clearly, as well as the dyeing with natural dyes, mordants can also be made on both fibers, of yarns, fabrics and artifacts. And also remember that the natural dyes (unlike synthetic ones) dye only natural materials.

As you know, when dealing with natural dyes we can only ask for our well-known and trusted consultant, Paola Barzanò. She explained patiently how to achieve a perfect mordanting.

The perfect mordanting

It is a process made using mordants, especially mineral or synthetic salts (such as potassium alum), but also vegetable materials (such as tannins). Depending on the type of natural fiber to be dyed, the techniques for mordanting may vary.

In order to perform this process on animal fibers (and/or yarns and fabrics obtained by them) made of a protein base more similar to natural dyes, only one bath should be used.

In order to perform the mordanting process on vegetal fibers (and/or yarns and fabrics obtained by them) less  similar to natural dyes, it is necessary to do it twice to obtain a more stable colour.

To this end, in the mordanting of vegetable fibers tannins (plant substances present for example in the bark of plants such as oak and chestnut)  give a colour of variable intensity to the fibers, depending on the type of tannin used. The gallnut of the oak is the most neutral and widely used tannin for dyeing fibers with light colours so that it interferes less with the colour bath.

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Mordanting animal fibers (such as wool and silk)

Natural animal fibers (and/or yarns and fabrics obtained by them), thanks to their protein composition, which is similar to the dyeing extracted from plants and insects, need an easy mordanting process, in one bath only. Hereafter there is an explanation of the different steps of the mordanting process for all colours, except for indigo and woad.

  • Weigh the dry material (fiber, yarn or tissue).
  • Rinse with water and neutral soap.
  • Weigh the potassium alum: you have to calculate a 20 to 1 ratio compared to the weight of the material you wish to dye. Please note that in order to guarantee shine to the red tones you have to add to potassium alum also a 5% (compared to the weight of the dry material) of cream of tartar in the mordanting bath.
  • Dissolve your potassium alum in a liter of warm water and make sure that the salt crystals are completely melted.
  • Pour the compound obtained in a pot filled with water (keeping the bath ratio at 20/1) and bring to 80°C (176°F).
  • Completely soak the material in the mordanting bath first, then - in order to avoid the formation of air bubbles- slowly immerse your material.
  • Stir it from time to time to let the fiber absorb the mordant in a uniform way.
  • Let the material sit in the mordanting bath for about one hour at 80° C (176°F).
  • Let the material cool down in its mordanting bath, then rinse it thoroughly in warm water to avoid thermal shocks. The material is now ready for the dye bath.

Mordanting vegetal fibers (such as bamboo, hemp, cotton and ramie)

Mordanting natural animal fibers (and/or yarns and fabrics obtained by them), is a process composed of two or three different baths.

Steps are:

  • Weigh the wet material.
  • Rinse it with neutral soap and water.
  • Leave it to dry completely.

First mordanting bath

  • Weigh 2% of gallnut powder (tannin) compared to the weight of the dry material.
  • Dissolve the gallnut extract in a liter of hot water.
  • Pour the liquid in a pot filled with water and bring to 80°C (176°F)
  • Completely soak the material in the mordanting bath forst, then - in order to avoid the formation of air bubbles- slowly immerse your material.
  • Stir it from time to time to let the fiber absorb the mordant in a uniform way.
  • Let the material sit in the mordanting bath for at least one hour at 80° C (176°F).
  • Let the material cool down in its mordanting bath, then rinse it thoroughly in warm water to avoid thermal shocks.
  • Let the fabric dry.

Second mordanting bath

  • Weigh your potassium alum: calculate a 20 to 1 ratio compared to the weight of the dry material.
  • Add 6% sodium carbonate compared to the dry material.
  • Dissolve the potassium alum in about one liter of hot water and when it is well melt add the washing soda.
  • Pour your compound in a pot filled of water (bath ratio 20/1) previously brought to 80°C (176°F)
  • Wet again the material you have processed with the mordant (first mordanting bath)
  • Completely soak the material in the mordanting bath first, then - to avoid the formation of air bubbles- slowly immerse your material.
  • Stir it from time to time to let the fiber absorb the mordant in a uniform way.
  • Maintain the mordanting bath temperature at 80°C (176°F) for at least one hour.
  • Let the material cool down in its mordanting bath, then rinse it thoroughly in warm water to avoid thermal shocks.
  • Let the fabric dry. The material is now ready for the dye bath.

And now, it’s time to play with colours. Let us know the results you get. We bet they will be fantastic!

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