How to Dye Silk with Natural Dyes
Yes, we can. Silk (protein fibres) accept dyes best. Plant fibres (cotton and linen) need a mordant or a dye with natural tannins (avocados, onion skins, or black walnuts). All fibres should be scoured prior to dyeing for the best results. We are firm believers that your textile is like the canvas of the painter. When your canvas is prepped properly, your art will be much more mesmerizing, hence we suggest to use a mordant with silk too, to ensure the longevity of the colours. Only if you decide to dye your silk with woad or indigo should you skip using a mordant.
First of all, know your silk. If you are not sure what kind of silk fabric you have, try to figure it out before you dye it because different silk fabrics take natural dyes differently. Here is an amazing blog post about different kinds of silk fabrics: http://www.wildcolours.co.uk/html/silk.html
Tools that you will need:
Alum Mordant (aluminium potassium sulphate)
Metal Pot (bigger than 10L)
Stainless Steel Spoon (wooden spoon is not okay as silk fibres can catch on the edge of it)
Mordanting Your Silk
To ensure that the dye fixes to the silk properly you need to mordant the silk first.
- Measure your silk when dry.
- Make sure that your silk is completely clean. Pre-wash your silk before dying it.
- Pre-soak your silk: pour hot tap water in a large bowl and add a drop of washing liquid. Let it soak overnight.
- Weigh the alum, using 25% of the weight of dry silk (i.e. for 100g of silk use 25 grams of alum).
- Pour the alum into 1 L of boiling water and stir it until it dissolves well.
- Fill your saucepan ¾ full of hot tap water then add the dissolved alum into it. Steer well.
- Add the pre-soaked silk. Work the silk gently into the mordant. Make sure your skin is not coming into contact with the mordant, it’s best to wear rubber gloves or use a long clip.
- Leave the silk in the pot for 24 hours without adding any heat and stir gently and occasionally.
- At the end of the 24 hours take the silk from the pot. You can either rinse it gently and then dye it, or leave it to dry and dye later.
Now Let’s Dye the Silk with Natural Dyes
- If dry (not dying right after the end of the mordanting process) soak your mordanted silk in warm water for at least two hours but 8-10 hours would be preferable.
- Measure the desired amount of dye. Use the product description for suggested amounts and colour mixture recipe as reference and don’t be shy to ask specific questions from the producer if you are confused.
- Mix the chosen extract into a paste with a small amount of hot water. Fill a saucepan with hot water and add the mixed extract.
- Add the wet mordanted silk and leave overnight. Stir from time to time using a stainless-steel spoon.
- Rinse the dyed fabric with warm water and let it dry.