Tannin Mordant Recipe for Dyeing Plant Fiber

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

| December 2013

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

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.

mother earth news fair


Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!