We met, as usual, in Phyllis’s back yard on one of the hottest afternoons of the year. We came prepared with fibers and fabrics that had earlier been soaked in an alum solution (called a mordant in fabric talk). There are various elements that can mordant fiber. All help the dyes fix to the fabric and often affect the kind of color the dyes provide. Alum is a safe and easy-to-use mordant.
We are always interested in learning what we can about using natural dyes produced by plant and animal products as opposed to dyes created in a chemical lab. People have used these dyes for thousands of years to provide color in there fabric and sometimes even to paint their bodies. (We are sticking to just the fabrics.) Today we are using osage orange (Maclura pomifera) twigs and cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) produced by tiny bugs that live on cactus plants. We will also use some indigo (a plant dye that produces blue) on some of our fibers after they have been dyed yellow or red.
Anni introduced us to the wide range of colors that can be produced by natural dyes.
We then set to work with our own fibers. Here are some of the results of our day of dyeing.