Basic Iron Mordant Recipe for Dyeing Animal Fiber

By using this Basic Iron Mordant Recipe, you can achieve high-quality results from dyeing animal fiber.

Baskets full of dyed animal fibers.

You can mordant your animal fiber by heat, cold, or solar dyeing methods.

Photo by Fotolia/lightningboldt

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Home dyeing can be a gamble if you are new to the idea, but even if you are experienced in the art, knowing the reaction difference between animal fibers and plant based fibers can be crucial to proper dye absorption. Using The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes (Timber Press, 2010) Sasha Duerr walks you through using mordants and natural dyes in perfect harmony. Use this excerpt to dye animal fiber with a Basic Iron Mordant Recipe.

Basic Iron Mordant Recipe

Before dyeing your animal fiber, weigh the dry fiber and record the dry weight; the iron powder will be measured in proportion to the dry fiber weight. Iron powder can be obtained as ferrous sulfate crystals. You can mordant your fiber by heat, cold, or solar dyeing methods. When you’re working with iron powder, be careful not to breathe in the iron dust, which can be caustic to the lungs. It’s a good idea to wear a dust mask with iron powder.

4 ounces (113 g) fiber
2 percent (1/2 teaspoon) iron powder to weight of fiber

Wet the fiber in lukewarm water for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

Fill a large stainless steel pot with enough water to cover the fiber and give it plenty of room so it takes the mordant evenly.

Heat the water to a simmer, 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius).

Put the iron powder in a cup, add some hot water, and stir to dissolve. Add the dissolved iron solution to the simmering water, and stir. Turn off the heat and let the water cool down.

Remove the soaking fiber from the water, and add it to the dye pot. Heat the mordant bath to a simmer. Put a lid on the pot to keep any fumes from causing irritation to your eyes and lungs.

Occasionally remove the pot lid and gently stir the fiber, allowing it to absorb the iron evenly. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the dye pot from the heat, and allow the fiber to cool before washing.

Wash the fiber with pH-neutral soap, and rinse thoroughly to get rid of any remaining iron particles. Hang fiber to dry.

Use mordants and aftermordants for your home dyeing projects. Read Using Mordants With Natural Plant Dyes for more recipes and tips from Sasha Duerr.


This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes: Personalize Your Craft With Organic Colors From Acorns, Blackberries, Coffee and Other Everyday Ingredients, published by Timber Press, 2010.