Sunday, April 3, 2011

Last Words on Madder (for the Time Being at Least)

Ever since the weather changed five weeks ago, we have been busy with our experiments in selected Indian natural dyes...The first and most extensive was done with madder, and most of the information on it is found in the last post....

The work with madder brought a few things to our attention. First and foremost was the idea that certain mordant concentrations can have a significant impact on the final colors. To me this was very important and before using any dye extensively, in the future, I promised myself to test it with different concentrations of the mordants that we use.

Secondly, all inorganic mordants have a negative effect on the wool. This effect varies from hardly perceptible in case of alum to outright damaging in case of tin, with copper and iron falling in between those two extremes. Please note that we work only with hand-spun, hand-plied  fibers, so our wool is more sensitive to this than commercially spun product.

Thirdly, cold baths do give good results, with less damage to the fibers.

In the next dozen or so posts I will publish the results. In the frame of these experiments we used a wide range of mordant concentrations, and tried to run both hot and cold baths. The ratio of dye to fiber was generally in the 1/1 to 1/1.5 range. The hot baths were generally 1 hour simmer, with an overnight rest in the the dye bath. The cold baths were left standing indoors for about one week. The indoor temps were around 10 degree Celsius...

Now back to madder. The last set of experiments, described in the previous post, left me a bit unsatisfied. I wanted to find the deeper reds and reddish-browns, and neither the 1 hour bath nor the cold bath gave us those. So we tried one final madder hot bath. This one lasted 3 to 4 hours and gave us the following results:

Madder on local Himachal Wool from the Kinnauri Valley, no mordant:
(...and i apologize for the spelling errors on some of these cards....)
A very bright, gamboge color with no negative effects on the fibers.

Madder on Alum : 1Al 5%; 2. Al 5% + CoT 5%; 3. Al 10%; 4. Al 25%  ; 5. Al 10% + CoT 10% ; 6. Al 25% + CoT 25%; 7. Al 50%; 8. Al 50% + CoT 15%; 9. Al 15% + CoT 5%
Some people will find these alum concentrations way too high, but I would like to reiterate that the difference in hand and fiber structure is minimal, and pales in comparison to the effects of the 3 other mordants that we have used in these experiments....

As a general observation the CoT lightens the madder reds, and creates a tawny color which is constant, irrespective of the alum concentration. This tawny is only a shade or too redder than the original gamboge color offered by unmordanted wool. The cot also softens the fibers and eliminates some of the roughness created by alum. For ex.: the 50% alum + 15% CoT is slightly softer than the 5% pure alum...

In general the fiber structure and hand of all of the above samples is excellent.

Madder on copper: 1. Cu 1%; 2. Cu 1%  + 2% Citric Acid; 3. Cu 2%; 4. Cu 2%  + 4% Citric Acid; 5. Cu 4%; 6. Cu 4%  + 8% Citric Acid; 7. Cu 8%; 8. Cu 8%  + 10% Citric Acid.
Copper was the only mordant that did not show any significant changes with the different concentration levels. All concentrations produced a beautiful, vibrant, deep, rosewood red. Minimal effects on the fiber structure at 1% and 2%, becoming very pronounced at higher levels. Citric acid does not seem to have any significant effect. It is possible that the fibers are slightly softer, but that difference is insignificant and does not warrant its use in this case.

Madder on iron: 1. 1% Iron; 2. 1% Iron + 2% CoT + 1% Glauber’ Salt; 3. 2% Iron; 4. 2% Iron + 4% CoT + 2% Glauber’ Salt; 5. 4% Iron; 6. 4% Iron + 6% CoT + 4% Glauber’ Salt.
I was actually pleasantly surprised by the range of copper- and bronze-tones offered by different concentrations of iron. The effects of CoT and GSalt are unfortunately damaging to the fibers and do not enhance the color nor the hand. All pure iron concentrations seem usable.

Madder on tin: 1. 2% Sn; 2. 2% Sn + 2% CoT; 3. 2% Sn + 2% Oxalic Acid; 4. 4% Sn; 5. 4% Sn + 4% CoT; 6. 4% Sn + 4% Oxalic Acid; 7. 8% Sn; 8. 8% Sn + 8% CoT; 9. 8% Sn + 8% Oxalic Acid.
 This is the time in these posting where my heart sinks. The tin colors are brilliant, light and happy. They are full of character, nuance and life. Unfortunately all the fibers are damaged. The addition of oxalic give the best visual results, but the problem with the fibers persist regardless of the concentration and other substances present....

1 comment:

  1. These dye experiments are detailed, well-organized and documented. Great body of work!