Saturday, February 9, 2013

Natural Dyes - Alkanet

The Maiwa Guide to Natural Dyes
What they are and how to use them


We are working our way through the most common dyes alphabetically. So we begin with Alkanet, it is available online here.

Alkanetalkanna tinctoria or dyer’s alkanet is a very attractive purple colourant that is found in the roots of plants belonging to the borage family. It grows uncultivated throughout central Europe and extends to central Asia and North Africa. The extracted pigment is often used in cosmetics, soaps and pigments. The violet colourant from alkanet is not soluble in water.

Before a dyebath is made the alkanet root must be soaked in a solution of alcohol and hot water – colourless rubbing alcohol or methylated spirits can be used (some dyers who do not like the smell of either of these solvents use vodka!). The colours produced on mordanted fabric and yarns are shades of grey, lavender and purple when used at 75-100% WOF. The colours achieved are beautiful but have moderate light fastness.

Mordanting: use alum mordant at 15% WOF for protein fibres. Mordant with tannin at 8% WOF and then alum at 15% for cellulose fibres.

Dyeing: Use dried alkanet at approximately 75-100% WOF for rich colours. First, soak the shavings in alcohol (or methylated spirits) for several days to extract the colour. When the liquid has developed a strong colour, strain off the liquid then add enough water to this liquid for the fibres to move freely in the solution. Add the mordanted fibres and heat this dyebath up gently - but no higher than 60ºC (140ºF) - until all the colour has been taken up. Adding iron to the dyebath at 2% WOF creates a range of greys and grey-violets.

Samples and light fastness tests: below are some of our dye samples and light fastness tests. Keep in mind that computer monitors will introduce a colour bias, as will the process of photographing the dye samples. Reader's who are interested in colour, especially how it shifts in photography will find our post about the tapestries at Hampton Court interesting.

Our light tests are done by taking an evenly dyed piece of cloth and then exposing only half of it to daylight for 60 days in summer. We are located in the Pacific Northwest  - our sun does not have a reputation for intensity. Professional, scientifically calibrated, fade tests are available, but tend to be prohibitively expensive. Our simple tests confirmed what we understood to be true: that Alkanet on cloth is beautiful but has only moderate light fastness.

Click on the image for a larger version.


Alkanet at 80% WOF
wool, silk, viscose, boiled cotton, mercerized cotton.


Alkanet at 80% WOF + Iron at 2% WOF
wool, silk, viscose, boiled cotton, mercerized cotton.

Alkanet at 80% WOF
linen, silk, wool, wool jersey, hemp.

Alkanet at 80% WOF + Iron at 2% WOF
linen, silk, wool, wool jersey, hemp.

Alkanet light test - 60 days.
Alkanet 80% WOF on linen, gall nut as tannin.


Alkanet light test - 60 days.
Alkanet 80% WOF on linen, maiwa tannin.

Alkanet light test - 60 days.
Alkanet 80% WOF + iron afterbath on linen, gall nut as tannin.

Alkanet light test - 60 days.
Alkanet 80% WOF + iron afterbath on linen, maiwa tannin.




The Maiwa Guide to Natural Dyes



3 comments:

  1. Thank you for this information, looking forward to the whole ABC's of natural dyes.

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  2. I used alkanet(Rattan Jot) from my local indian spice store, with just an alum/cream of tartar mordant, and it came out a much clearer bluer purple/lavender on cotton. Perhaps it was just a fresher root or maybe the indian version was higher quality, but I got very good results. Using your alcohol technique was extremely helpful. I'll try using a tannin mordant in addition next time and see if the results are browner like yours.

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  3. Fascinating. But: What does "WOF" mean?

    ReplyDelete

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