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At the Cauldron - A Natural Dyer's Dream

At the Cauldron - A Natural Dyer's Dream

I love dyeing with natural dyes. There are number of steps involved in the dyeing of a wool scarf. In its simplest form this is the process below (the process varies with protein fibre - wool and silk and cellulose fibre - cotton, linen, hemp, etc.).

    1. Firstly the fabric has to be scoured (washed), then cut into widths for scarves.
    2. Next step is filling and heating a large 72 litre stainless steel vat (when the outside water taps are drained and turned off for the winter, this means hauling pails of water from the house to the garage) to apply the mordant. A mordant is cooked into the fabric and prepares the fabric to 'take' the dye. The fabric is cooked for one hour at 190 degrees Fahrenheit (stirring frequently to achieve an even distribution onto the scarf). After the mordant is cooked onto the fabric the scarves are taken out of the vat and dried. They are now ready for dyeing. 
    3. The next step is selecting dyes for the scarf. This is the fun part. When one knows what to mix for dyes, additional colours can be achieved. Also, the addition of iron salts (in small amounts) can shift the colour to a tonal 'sadder' colour. Cream of tartar can shift colors, too - such as when I dye with cochineal. Using cream of tartar gives a lighter, brighter colour to the finished scarf. 
    4. The dyes are added to the vat and the scarf is cooked for another hour at 190-200 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring to ensure consistency.

    This in a nutshell is the process. See the photos and videos of a recent batch of beautiful scarves in rust colour. 


     Preparing the Brazilwood for the vat. 

    Brazilwood chips after straining.  


    Checking the temperature of the vat - it needs to be 190 - 200 degrees Fahrenheit. 

    Beautiful colour achieved on merino wool!

    Scarves drying on the rack

    Here is the finished Infinity Scarf. Available on my website. 

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