Tannin Mordant Recipe for Dyeing Plant Fiber

Using a Tannin Mordant Recipe will allow natural dyes to adhere to plant fiber more efficiently.

Dried Cotton Plant

When using a tannin mordant with plant fibers like cotton, linen, or hemp, allow extra time for the process, sometimes up to 2 to 3 days.

Photo by Fotolia/essentialimage

Content Tools

Home dyeing can be a gamble if you are new to the idea, but even if you are experienced in the art, knowing the different reactions given by plant based fibers and animal 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. Using a tannin mordant recipe like the one in this excerpt will help natural dyes bond with plant fibers for the most colorful results.

Basic Tannin Mordant Recipe With Plant Fiber

Two popular sources for making a tannin mordant are oak galls (from Quercus species) and sumac leaves (Rhus species). This recipe is for oak galls, but you may substitute sumac leaves of the same fiber weight. Work with thoroughly scoured fiber.

4 ounces (113 g) plant fiber

1 ounce (1 teaspoon) powdered oak galls

Soak the fiber overnight in cool water.

Place the oak gall powder in a stainless steel pot with 4 to 6 gallons (16 to 23 L) of water, and stir to dissolve. Bring the solution to a simmer, 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius), and simmer for 30 to 60 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat. Allow the tannin bath to cool down from hot to warm.

Lift the wet fiber out of its soaking pot, and submerge it in the tannin bath. Let it steep from 8 to 24 hours.

Remove the fiber from the tannin bath. Rinse the fiber in lukewarm to cool water. then wash with a pH-neutral soap, rinse again thoroughly, and hang 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.