Alum Mordant Recipe for Dyeing Silk Fabric

1 / 2
You can process silk fabric with a mordant the same way you do wool and other natural fabrics.
2 / 2
“The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes” by Sasha Duerr is full of helpful tips and recipes for home dyeing enthusiasts.

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. Dye your silk pieces with the alum mordant recipe in this excerpt.

Alum Mordant Recipe

You can process silk fabric with a mordant the same way you do wool and other natural fabrics. Weigh your silk fiber before measuring the alum; alum is used in proportion to the dry weight of the fiber. For silk, you can use either a cold-water or a hot-water dye method. This recipe is for the cold-water dye method.

4 ounces (113 g) silk fabric
8 percent (1 1/2 teaspoons) alum to weight of fiber
7 percent (1 1/2 teaspoons)
Cream of tartar to weight of fiber

Soak your silk fiber in water for at least 1 hour.

Put the alum and the cream of tartar in a cup, add some hot water, and stir to dissolve. Add the mordant mixture to a bucket of lukewarm water, and stir.

Put the wetted silk fabric into the mordant bath, and gently move it around in the bath for a few minutes. Leave the fabric to soak overnight.

Wash the fabric in cool water with pH-neutral soap to remove any unfixed mordant. Rinse thoroughly in cool water. 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.