Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Playing in the Mordant Pots

Many years ago, at a long-past conference, I purchased some alkanet root from Maiwa Handprints, a purveyor of many interesting things including natural dyestuffs, located in British Columbia. After much experimentation extracting dye from wood chips or other woody materials, I decided to do a test with the alkanet. Alkanet is a root, like madder, but unlike madder it has a papery outer covering on the roots. I don't know if the colorant is in the covering or in the roots themselves. Someday I'll buy some more and see if the outer covering by itself makes as powerful a dye as using both together.

Lots of dye books describe the results of a conventional alkanet dyebath, with widely differing processes, lightfastness, and resulting colors, which range from grey to purple to brown. Some of the recipes I read advised using a 4:1 ratio of dyestuff to fiber.

What I did was put my 2-ounce package (about 56 gm) of alkanet into a jar and covered it with alcohol for a couple of days. The dye liquor turned a very deep red-violet:

When I saw how thoroughly the liquor stained the spoon, and my grey nitrile gloves, I was sure it would do something interesting on silk. (The spoon won't come clean, even with a cleanser containing bleach.)

You'll notice the spoon stained red, the gloves purple.. Hmmm.

I made 3 skeins of 60/2 silk, each weighing about 30 gm. Each skein went into a different mordant pot:

Left front, copper; right front, tin plus cream of tartar; back, alum. You can see the alkanet chips in their alcohol soak to the left of the stove.

This shot shows how the silk took up the copper mordant:

After mordanting, the skeins will go into a single dyebath, with hopefully 3 very different colors coming out of the dyebath. I don't usually do the multi-mordant/single-dyebath routine, but since I've never worked with alkanet, it seemed like a good thing to try. Also, I'll do some lightfastness testing afterward, to see how the differently-mordanted alkanet holds up under the bright California sunlight.

More tomorrow, after the next step of the process - aka, playing in the dyepot!

No comments: