Down the rabbit hole.

Sometimes, a book or an article sends me down a natural dye rabbit hole that consumes a lot of time with not much to show for the effort.  But the exploration is interesting.  In this case, I was reading a book called Natural Colorants  for Dyeing and Lake Pigments Practical Recipes and Their Historic Sources.  In it, there are experiments based on historic recipes which include the use of Potash (K2CO3) either in the dye bath or post dyeing.  I had come across this idea before in Boehmer’s book Koekboya, but never really understood the purpose.  The Navajos and Hopis smoke their dyed wool over wood ash which would seem to accomplish the same end (whatever that end is).  I think I finally found an explanation in Application of Dyestuffs by J. Merritt Matthews.  On page 41, there is a discussion of using a concentrated solution of caustic soda on wool at a cold temperature.  It gives the wool more luster and makes it less susceptible to felting so was used on rugs.  The wool cannot be left in the solution for a long time and it will damage the wool so maybe not a good practice for dyeing. This research led me back to the structure of wool and the question of why different breeds of sheep take dye differently.  Dyers can tell you that a long wool sheep such as churro will take dyes easier than a breed like merino or cormo.  I have never understood why.  I came across a statement in The Science and Teaching with Natural Dyes that dye binds only to the amorphous regions of the fiber and not the tightly packed crystalline regions.  So, perhaps this is the reason the different breeds take dye differently.  I have not come across anything that shows the % by breed of the regions.  There is also a question in the natural dye world, if varying the mordant process will increase the amount of dye take up (increasing the amount of alum).  So, another rabbit hole to explore at some point.   I did come across another statement in Textile Science an explanation of fibre properties that confirmed something that had been in the back of my mind; that for a given weight of wool fibre, courser wools will have fewer fibers than finer wools so one would need to use more dye for the finer wool to get the same color.  That would imply that more mordant would also be required.  Some experiments are probably in order. So, no pictures in this post.  Just a documentation of some of my findings for posterity.



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