Monday, 20 May 2013

Making Mordants

For those interested in Natural dyeing:
We wildcraft a lot of our dyes...
And we have the ready ability to make mordants!

Fantastic isn't it.

Let's back this up a little.

Where I live (Coast Salish Territories, Vancouver BC) there are SO many dyes to go collect. But there is magic in making your own mordants. I collected rusted pieces of metal from one of my garden plots. That is what i'm using for the iron mordant. For the copper, i'm using some thich copper wire i've had laying around the studio for a while!

For the iron, I put the rusted metal into a jar. I then put in 2 parts water, and 1 part white vinegar. I labeled the jar as such, and put it out on my porch.

For the copper, I put the copper wire into jars. I then filled the jars with 1 part water, and 1 part white vinegar. I also labeled these jars, and put them out on the porch.

These jars living on my porch have good company. As of right now there are 12 jars of various things being solar dyed. (A few of them are experiments to show what different mordants can do! Also, there are skeins of hanging naturally dyed yarns, and pots of dye plants growing. I think that all of these things together make the house look quite witchy, and that makes me happy!

So now I wait! The jars of copper mordants will turn blue, and they will be ready to use. The iron jar will become the colour of light tea, and it will be ready!

I can refill these jars again and again with their respective water/vinegar solutions, and continue to get my own homemade mordants!


  1. This is JUST what Ive been wanting to learn. I reclaim my yarn from old jumpers/charity shops etc..I collect the dye material from my garden.. So it pains me to buy a mordant online. To be able to make my own from reclaimed stuff makes me happy! thank you for sharing :) xx

  2. Hi Caitlin, that's interesting! But how do you use it? Do you soak the fibre in the mordant solution separately before soaking it in the dye bath or do you mix the solution with the dye bath at once? Cheers :)

    1. Hello!
      I always premordant fibres with alum (so I know they're going to take the dye)
      And then I pour in a few glugs from the mordant solution.
      Unfortunately it takes a little luck and some practice to know how much to use, as the variation on how much metal is in the jar will alter how strong the concentrate is.

      But give it a go. Use a bit less than you think you should- and add more from there. You can always add more!

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  4. I truly want to know all your secrets so hot or room temp Alum with or without cream of tartar? I am assuming from your statement to Caitlin that you are mixing dye and mordant or are you saying that you are mixing the iron and copper mordants to the alum solution and soaking once again hot or cold soaking? and hot or cold dyeing?

  5. I first mordant with alum (without cream of tartar) using the stovetop method- and then use the mordants I make in with the dyes.
    You can use them at any point though (with alum, with the dyes, or an afterbath)

  6. How long does it take for the mordants to be ready to use?