Home » The Basic Recipe for Cellulose

Dyeing cellulose is more complicated than dyeing protein fibers. There are a myriad recipes from all over the world. What follows is a distillation of these variations. It is a basic recipe for strong, saturated, lightfast colors. If you take the time to dry the fiber thoroughly between each step, you will improve your results.

1. Oiling the cellulose fiber

  • Determine the dry weight of the fiber. This is WOF.
  • Soak the yarn or fabric in a solution of 10% WOF turkey red oil in water at 60ºC (140ºF) for at least 1 hour.
  • Dry thoroughly. This is important because oxidizing the oil turns it rancid, separating the fatty acids from the oil, and fixing it onto the fiber.
  • Store the fiber for later use, or proceed to the next step.

2. Tannin process

  • Soak the fiber in a solution of gall nut extract 10% WOF at 60ºC (140ºF) for 60 minutes. Gall nut extract is a gallic tannin well suited to protecting the lightfastness of the dye.
  • Allow to steep overnight.
  • Rinse and then dry thoroughly. Again, you can store the fiber now for later use, or proceed to the next step.

3. Mordanting with Symplocos

  • Weigh out an amount of Symplocos equal to half the weight of the fiber or 50% WOF.
  • Boil the Symplocos in soft water for 60 minutes, or until the Symplocos sinks to the bottom of the pot.
  • You may filter this liquid, if you are using yarn. If you are mordanting cloth, it is not necessary to filter, since it is easy to remove the Symplocos particles from the cloth later, by rinsing.
  • Soak the fiber in the Symplocos liquid for at least 30 minutes at 60ºC (140ºF).
  • Rinse the fiber in warm water. When rinsed, your fiber will be a pale shade of yellow indicating successful mordanting by the Symplocos. The yellow will disappear after dyeing and will not influence the final color.
  • Dry thoroughly. Again, you can store the fiber now for later use, or proceed to the next step.

4. Dyeing process

  • Now your fiber is ready to dye! All mordant dyes can be used with this process.

For dried or fresh dye materials use 100% WOF

    • Boil the fresh or dried dye material, 100% WOF, in water, for at least 30 minutes.
    • Filter the dye bath, cool to 60ºC (140ºF), and add the fiber.
    • Heat gently, over the course of 1 hour to 90ºC (194ºF), and keep at this temperature for 60 minutes.
    • Rinse and dry.

For concentrated dye extracts use 10% WOF

    • Dissolve the extract, 10% WOF, in warm water, add the fiber.
    • Heat gently, over the course of 1 hour to 90ºC (194ºF), and keep at this temperature for 60 minutes.
    • Rinse and dry.

For Madder

    • Madder must be treated more gently than other mordant dyes. If it is heated too quickly it will turn brown.
    • Dilute finely powdered madder root 100% WOF, or madder extract 10% WOF, in warm water 40ºC (104ºF).
    • Add the fiber. Warm very slowly, over the course of 1 hour, to 60ºC (140ºF).
    • Over the next hour, heat to 80ºC (176ºF).
    • Cool the fiber in the dye bath.
    • Then rinse and dry.

For logwood extract

    • With logwood extract much less can be used: between 5% for dark shades and 1% for light shades.
    • With cochineal extract much less can be used: between 5% for dark shades and 2.5% for light shades.