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How To Dye Black

by Cheryl Kolander.

After recording the dry weight of your textile, wet it out in warm or hot water.

STEP I: TANNIN 


4 ounces tannic acid per pound of fiber (dry weight)

  1. Dissolve tannic acid in hot water.
  2. Heat the solution to approximately 200 F.
  3. Remove from heat.
  4. Enter the silk (or other textile) that has been thoroughly wet out in warm to hot water.
  5. Set to soak for at least 24 hrs, stirring occasionally.

STEP II: IRON
2 to 4 ounces Ferrous Sulphate (iron) per pound of fiber
Use the lesser amount for fine silk yarn and soft wools. Use the greater amount for wild silk and other fibers.

  1. Dissolve the iron in warm water.
  2. Soak fiber in a mild soap solution about 15 minutes to neutralize the acid in the tannin (which counters the effect of the iron).
  3. Add textile to warm iron solution and soak for about 20 minutes.
  4. Remove fiber from iron solution, wring excess solution from fiber, and hang to air 20 minutes to 1 hour.
  5. Save this iron bath for STEP IV.

At this point, the colour should be a dark gray.  If it is not a good dark gray, or if it is uneven, return to the iron solution.  Add a bit more iron first and stir well to dissolve, then let the fiber soak again another 20 minutes.  Don’t forget to air the fiber afterwards to complete the oxidation process. 

STEP III: LOGWOOD – FUSTIC

12 oz. to 1 lb. of logwood shavings per pound of textile.
2 oz. fusticwood per pound of fiber

  1. Extract logwood shavings twice*.
  2. Extract the fusticwood twice*. Fustic yellow neutralizes the blue tone of the straight logwood.
  3. Submerge the heat and heat to just below the boiling point for at least two hours, up to all day or even all night.
  4. Let textile cool in the dyebath.
  5. Save this “Black Liquor” to be used the next time you dye black.  Just strain off any mold or slime that may form and add more dye as per the recipe.

STEP IV: IRON

  1. Return fiber to room temperature iron bath.
  2. Let soak overnight.
  3. Hang to air overnight or until the material starts to dry.

STEP V: RINSE OR REPEAT

At this point, if you are happy with the depth of the colour, rinse the fiber until the rinse water is barely tinted by the dye, hang to dry and enjoy!

If the fiber does not look completely black at this point, repeat steps III and IV until desired colour is acheived.

TIP: If you have acidic water, try adding a bit of ammonia to the logwood dyebath to acheive a deeper black. 

Both the logwood dyebath and the iron bath can be saved and reused indefinitely.  Assume about 25% of the dyes and mordants are still in the baths when calculating how much logwood, fustic, and iron to add for the next batch. 

For more detailed instruction and recipes for other colors, please purchase the book Brilliant Colours with Natural Dyes.

*To Extract Dyewoods:

1) Place shavings in water, at least three times the volume.
2) Bring to a boil.
3) Cover and boil 20 minutes.
4) Strain out the dye liquid.
5) Return the shavings to more water and repeat.

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