Ecological processes for dyeing cellulose fibres

with Michel Garcia

Mordant dyes

1. Symplocos, the ‘alum tree’

Using powdered Symplocos leaves we will be able to achieve a full range of shades from the most popular mordent dyes such as madder root, cochineal, weld, and logwood. Step by step, all the issues and potential problems related to the correct preparation of cellulose fibres and its subsequent dyeing will be discussed and explored in detail.

2. How to make and how to use mineral mordants to dye cellulose fabrics, such as linen, hemp and cotton fibres

Aluminium, an element found in clays, granites, schist and other common rocks, is the commonest metal in the earth’s crust. Since ancient times, it has been used in various combinations to provied good raw materials for fixing colours in fabrics and yarns.

We will discover the two main methods of using aluminium salts, such as alum and other derivatives (aluminium acetates), to prepare cellulose fibres before dyeing it with all kinds of plants, including some harvested from the local environment.

Ferrous derivatives will be also used to extend our palette, by generating browns, greys, khakis and darker hues from wild and cultivated plants.

Indigo, the organic vat dye

Indigo has always intrigued us. During the class, we will make some of this precious blue extract from dried Indigofera leaves, and then we will use some of it to prepare ecological dye vats. We will use simple but effective methods to produce lasting vats that can be maintained over time, in which all kinds of fabrics and yarns can be dyed.

Each participant will prepare their own (5 litre) organic or fermentation vat during the course. From these vats we will not only get all kinds of blue shades – by making use of already coloured fabrics, we will also discover the delicate art of underdyeing and overdyeing with indigo.

Participants are invited to bring their favourite yarns to dye.