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To Live is to Dye – Part 2

Day 2 of experiments in natural dyeing began with some research on mordants. Mordants for natural dyes are sometimes needed to help fix the dye to the fiber. The word mordant is derived from a french word meaning “to bite” the fiber, which is how they were thought to work. For my first test I decided to use iron, which will deepen, or sadden the dye colors. To get an iron solution I threw some rusty nails into a jar with some white vinegar and water and let it all steep for a few days.


I clipped some rose leaves from my garden and soaked them in the iron mordant solution for an hour.



The leaves were placed on the silk/wool blend fabric which was then folded in half and rolled up tightly into a bundle secured with string.


I found that, once again, I needed a helping hand to keep the bundle from floating in the simmering water.


Unrolling the bundle after 2 hours of simmering and completely cooling is my favorite part.



The finished piece, dried and washed with a ph neutral soap…



Next time… using alum as a mordant. Here’s a sneak peek.



  1. That is so beautiful! I had no idea you could use leaves and rusty nails to dye cloth in patterns like that. Do you know when that practice was started — specifically, were they doing it in Medieval Europe? I can’t see any part of what you did that wouldn’t be technologically possible. Does it work on cotton and/or hemp the same way? Now I’m dying (ha ha) to find a way to put this into my fictional world.


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