1. Experimental Variables
These are basic and reliable recipes for using Symplocos for mordanting. With experience, you will find that there are 4 main variables that affect this process:
- The amount of Symplocos used as a percentage of the dry weight of the fiber (% WOF).
- The amount of time the fiber is heated in a solution of the Symplocos.
- The temperature to which the Symplocos and fiber are heated together.
- The amount of dyestuff used.
You may find, as you become experienced with using Symplocos, that you can use less Symplocos with particular dyestuffs, that you can use a smaller amount of a particular dyestuff and still get good results, or that you can use a lower temperature if you keep the fiber in the bath for a longer amount of time, for example overnight.
In our experiments to develop these recipes we tried using the Symplocos at varying % WOF. We tried: 5%, 10%, 20%, 30%, 50%, 90% and 100%. We started to get good colors with 20% on silk and wool. As we increased the percentage of Symplocos, we continued to get better (darker, richer) colors. This was true with some dyestuffs more than others. For example, with cutch and pomegranate, which are both tannins, increasing the percentage of Symplocos beyond 20% made little difference. With cochineal, osage, weld and especially madder, it made a lot of difference. That is why we are recommending that you begin by using 50% WOF to ensure a good result. It is also true that if you use a large percentage of Symplocos, you can use less dyestuff. This is especially true with logwood.
We encourage you to experiment and to share your results with us!
2. The quality of the water is important
Do not use calcareous water. Any soft water, rain water or distilled water, is appropriate. The calcium and magnesium bicarbonates in “hard” water may interact with the organic aluminum present in the Symplocos and partly neutralize it. By using soft water, the effect of Symplocos will be optimized. To neutralize the calcium present in hard tap water add 0.5g of cream of tartar per liter of water.
3. Additional resources
Consult the following resources for a general introduction to natural dyeing including discussion of: equipment needed, safety precautions, preparing different fibers for dyeing, and the relative differences between plant or cellulose and animal or protein fiber.
- The Maiwa Guide to Natural Dyes: what they are and how to use them
- Michele Wipplinger, Natural Dye Instruction Booklet, www.earthues.com, 2005
- Jenny Dean, Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes, Watson-Guptill Publications, 2010