Earthues, A Natural
Color Company
5129 Ballard Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98107
Earthues Hints and Tips: Getting
Deeper Colors
Richer color from natural dyes doesn't always mean using more dyestuff. Often, by following a few simple
procedures you can maximize the color yield from the dyes you use. The following are a few techniques we
use to get the deepest colors from our extracts.

Hint #1 Start with clean fiber  

Dyes will strike a clean, well-prepared fiber better than one that is oily, dusty or just plain soiled.  Always
make sure your fiber is as clean as you can get it.  We will often scour our fibers to remove spinning oils
and dust.  Some dyers also advise a light wash for RTD (ready to dye) fabrics to yield better results.

Hint #2 Know your water

Mineral rich or hard water can interfere with the bonding of the dye molecules to the fiber, resulting in a lot
of dye in the rinse water, and a dusty, faded look.  It really helps to check out the quality of your water
source before dyeing.  You can contact your municipal water supplier and find out the amount of minerals
and salts in your local water. You can use distilled or purchased water if you are dyeing with a pH and
mineral sensitive dye, such as cochineal and lac.  On the other hand, madder has an affinity for
calcium-rich water, so you may find a happy compromise between the two red dyes based on your water's
mineral content.

Hint #3 Mordant, then dye

Many dyers like to add their mordant and their dye simultaneously to the same dyepot. We agree that this
is convenient, but feel that one can sacrifice color intensity with this method. We consistently get darker
shades when we mordant our fiber first, rinse and extract the excess water, and then add the fiber to a
dyepot that has the dye dissolved in it.  This method allows the dye molecules to bond with the alum
mordant that is attached to the fiber, rather than the alum in the water.
Hint #4  Know the strike characteristics of your dyes

Some natural dyes strike (attach to the fiber) quickly, and some require more time to bloom to their full color potential.  As you become
more experienced in dyeing, you will see how the dye attaches to the fiber - does it strike quickly, or take a couple of hours?  What
happens if you start with hot water vs. cold?  Do you boil, or do you use a lower temperature to coax the color out?  Keep careful notes of
your dyeing methods and samples, and you will begin to recognize the qualities of your dyes and their behavior in the dyepot.  In our
studies, we find that osage strikes very quickly, cutch and walnut much more slowly.  Cochineal needs to be brought to temperature and
also allowed to cool down for the full color to bloom.