When I first started making MHRB soap I was so impressed with the colors that I figured I’d give dying a go. I dumped the mimosa hostilis root bark dye into hot water, stirred it really well and then put in my fabrics to soak overnight. If you’ve ever dyed anything before then you know that this didn’t work at all haha. I had no clue what went into dyeing fabrics. So just in case you’re in the same boat, I’m going to try to save you some trouble. I’m still not the best at this, but I’ve had some success. Be prepared to do a couple of test runs until you get the hang of it. You don’t want to mess up on something you really plan to keep. So first I’ll list the things you need. Then I’ll explain what they are, and we will close with how to dye with mimosa hostilis root bark.
- Cream of tartar (optional)
- MHRB Dye
- Large container – preferably a crockpot
- Long stirrer
- measuring spoon
Synthrapol works best with HOT water, yes, HOT water, when washing out excess dye, particularly Fiber Reactive Dye. You are getting out the excess loose dye molecules that have not been chemically bonded to the fabric. This is a good thing! Then you can rest assured that the dye won’t bleed on you, or the family underwear, the next time you wash it. Hot water is also best for the pre-washing we discuss below. Acid Dyes for wool and silk are a different story – hot water can actually break the bonds of the acid dye and cause more washout of color than you would want. Wash wools and silks dyed with Acid Dyes in cool to warm water. Synthrapol is great for washing silk and wool because of its neutral ph. High pH detergents actually can damage silk and wool.
Prewashing in Synthrapol helps remove invisible lubricants, fingerprints, dirt, oil, silkworm gum and other impurities that can interfere with the dye and cause uneven dyeing. It is especially important for tub dyeing where you want an even consistent dye job. Not pre-washing is one of the biggest causes of a “splotchy” result. Even PFD (prepared for dyeing) fabrics, yarns and clothing should be pre-washed! We never recommend skipping this step, especially with all the imported fabrics and clothing these days.
Synthrapol as the after wash keeps loose dye particles of dye in suspension so they don’t stain other areas of the fabric. Also, since Synthrapol is pH neutral, it doesn’t encourage loose fiber reactive dye particles to bind back on where they are not wanted, the way a high pH detergent would. So for tie-dyers, batik artists and printers: this helps white and lighter colored areas from being stained in the final wash by the excess dye. We get calls all the time about “muddy tie-dyes” – the secret is in the Synthrapol! (Also in the procedure for rinsing out the excess first!)
– Dharma Trading co.
Alum – this is your mordant which allows the fabric to absorb natural dye better. Aluminum sulfate is better for wools and aluminum acetate is better for cottons.
Cream of Tartar – Cream of Tartar, also known as potassium bitartrate, is produced by fermenting grape juice. It is used to acidify the dye bath to effect a color change, and in mordanting to soften wool fibers. It will shift the color of cochineal, madder and lac from their fuchsia and burgundy red shades to a brighter, redder colors. With madder, it will shift the hue to orange and with cochineal the color will become a bright red to orange. It can inhibit the color development in logwoods and certain tannins, so it is rarely used with these dyes.
– Botanical Colors
Mimosa Hostilis Root Bark Dye – our natural dye that produces beautiful shades of purples and browns. Extremely high tannin count of 16% is what has made this dye so popular since ancient times.
Large container – like a huge bowl, or a big bucket, or your bathtub will do. A really big crockpot or something like that will make life easy.
Long stirrer – something you can stir with that can get to the bottom of your container. I use a mop handle. Don’t judge, it works.
Cloth dying with MHRB
- Prewash your fabric with synthrapol and rinse well.
- Mordant the fabric
- Allow to cool and strain
- Rinse fabric and discard solution
- In a large pot, simmer MHRB dye for an hour. Enough water to submerge all fabric.
- Allow to cool
- Add wet fabric and simmer for 1 hour
- Stir frequently for even dying
- Allow to cool in dye bath for max color absorption
- Stir periodically for even dying
- Final gentle wash with synthrapol and rinse
To mordant the fabric you will need 1.75 tsp Alum and 1 tsp Cream of tartar (optional) per pound of fabric. You will need the cream of tartar to make things like wool more soft, but can inhibit some shades. This is something you can play with. Add enough water to submerge fabrics into a pot of appropriate size and turn on your heat. Then add your mordants and stir. Then throw in your fabric and stir that periodically for an hour. Allow the fabric to cool inside of the solution. Then pick up your fabric and squeeze all the excess liquid out of it that you can. It doesn’t have to be dry, but do your best. Discard the solution. Rinse the fabric ring it out again, then discard that liquid. All of the alum should be absorbed into the fabric.
Measure out your mimosa hostilis root bark dye. The more you use the deeper the colors will be. You want to add your MHRB to a big pot with enough water to submerge your fabrics and they can still move around freely. You want to stir this as it’s simmering as often as you can. Do this for about an hour and then allow to cool for best color development. You can also soak your MHRB dye over night for the darkest shades.
When you’re ready, toss in your fabric and turn the heat on. Simmer for an hour or so. Make sure you’re stirring frequently for even color distribution. I’ve made that mistake and it is a bummer.
Make up another synthrapol bath, but lighter. Gently wash the fabrics to remove excess dyes that haven’t bonded to the fabric. You don’t want them getting into other laundry. Then just give your fabrics a rinse and wait to dry.
You can save your dye bath and re-use for lighter shades in the future. So plan for that. Start with the fabrics or portions of the fabrics that you want darkest. Then use your recycled dye baths to get contrasting shades.
There you have it. A few test goes and you will have it down. It seems daunting on paper, but I assure you it’s not as much of a PITA as it seems. If you have any questions just ask, we love to help. You can always reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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