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The Modern Natural Dyer: A Comprehensive Guide to Dyeing Silk, Wool, Linen and Cotton at Home by Kristine Vejar is a beautiful, comprehensive book from STC Craft. Full of gorgeous photos, the book covers everything you need to know about the dyeing process plus there are lots of projects too! If you’ve ever wanted to experiment with dye, The Modern Natural Dyer is your ultimate resource.

From the publisher:

    Thousands of natural materials can produce glorious color—the insect cochineal produces pink, maroon, and purple, and more than 500 species of plants produce indigo blue. Now, in The Modern Natural Dyer, expert Kristine Vejar shares the most user-friendly techniques for dyeing yarn, fabric, and finished goods at home with foraged and garden-raised dyestuffs as well as with convenient natural dye extracts. Demystifying the “magic,” Vejar explains in explicit, easy-to-follow detail how to produce consistent, long-lasting color. With stunning photography of the dyes themselves, the dyeing process, and 20 projects for home and wardrobe (some to knit, some to sew, and some just a matter of submerging a finished piece in a prepared bath), The Modern Natural Dyer is a complete resource for aspiring and experienced dye artisans.

STC Craft generously allowed us to excerpt the Sock Hop! Cotton Socks project from the book, along with information on preparing the socks for dye: scouring, mordanting and preparing a wheat bran bath. If you want more information about how to create specific color shades, or access to a full wealth of knowledge on dyeing everything from fabric to yarn, to indigo dyes and more, get your hands on The Modern Natural Dyer. Your comment below also enters you in a book giveaway! Just let us know about dyeing: what do you want to dye, what you want to learn about dyeing or what have you experimented with in the past? (US addresses only, please.)

Author Kristine Vejar shares her artistry at A Verb for Keeping Warm, a center for textiles. She created Sock Hop! project kits with pre-measured materials; you can purchase and use the kit to make the process even easier. You can enjoy 15% off the kit through February 2016 with the coupon code sock hop at check-out.

Sock Hop! Cotton Socks

Excerpted from The Modern Natural Dyer: A Comprehensive Guide to Dyeing Silk, Wool, Linen and Cotton at Home, with permission from STC Craft.

Skills Learned: Basic dyeing on cellulose-based goods, Using a wheat bran bath

Use this project to become acquainted with the process of using extracts on cellulose-based fibers, and refer to the Cellulose Shade Card in the book to make these socks in the colors and shades of your choice.

These socks are perfect for a first project dyeing cotton because the knit fabric soaks up dye easily. If you are using new socks, wash them several times before dyeing to prepare the fibers. Or dye some comfy old socks to brighten them up. Seeing a pop of color under a pant leg is nearly always uplifting. Use a teaspoon of the following dyes (or use the Shade Card for Cellulose-Based Fibers on page 98 of the book if dyeing by weight) to create the colors shown—weld (yellow), cochineal (magenta), or madder (red).

Goods:

  • White 100% cotton socks, 64g, scoured and mordanted, dipped in wheat bran bath (I used Maggie’s Organics Socks)

Dyeing Materials + Tools:

  • ¼ cup (60mL) hot water
  • 1 teaspoon (5mL) dye extract
  • 10 cups (2.4L) water
  • Kitchen scale
  • 5-quart (4.7L) stainless-steel pot with lid
  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoons
  • Stirrer, such as whisk or spoon
  • Tongs
  • Timer
  • Thermometer
  • Rubber gloves

* See scouring, mordanting and preparing a wheat bran bath instructions below.

Dyeing Directions:
Note: The dyeing directions are the same for any color you choose. The materials will dye approximately one pair of socks.

1. Remember to dip the socks in the wheat bran bath before beginning to dye.
2. Add the ¼ cup (60mL) hot water to a measuring cup. Add the dye extract of your choice to the cup and stir until dissolved.
3. Combine the dissolved dye and 10 cups (2.4L) of water in a pot. Add the scoured and mordanted socks.
4. Place the pot on a burner. Slowly, over 30 minutes, bring the dyebath to 200°F (88°C), turning the socks every 15 minutes. Simmer for an additional hour, continuing to turn the socks every 15 minutes.
5. Turn off the heat. Let the socks rest until cool.
6. Wash the goods and allow to dry.

* Scouring Cellulose-Based Goods

It is important to scour (prewash) all fibers and fabrics before beginning the mordanting and dyeing process— especially cellulose-based fibers and any protein-based fibers such as wool, where lanolin may be present. Scouring removes any residue from the manufacturing process, so the mordant and dye can adhere to the material thoroughly and uniformly. Scouring helps ensure more saturated colors with better colorfastness.

A note on pot size: The size of the pot you use for scouring and mordanting is dependent upon the amount of goods you are working with. Unless you are scouring and mordanting for multiple projects, use the size called for in the project’s dyeing instructions.

The process for scouring plant-based goods is a bit different from scouring animal-based goods. Cellulosebased goods can endure and in fact benefit from being washed in an alkaline environment.
The stove-top method suggested is the best way to thoroughly scour, due to the high temperature achieved by boiling the goods. That said, it may be more convenient to use your washing machine to scour cellulose-based goods. Simply use the hot water/long cycle setting.

Materials + Tools:

  • Soda ash (also known as washing soda or sodium carbonate)
  • 3-quart (2.8L) or larger stainless-steel pot with lid (size dependent on the amount of goods)
  • Measuring spoons
  • Measuring cup
  • Stirrer, such as whisk or spoon
  • Thermometer
  • Tongs
  • Rubber gloves

1. Fill a stainless-steel pot with enough water so the goods are covered and can move freely when they are added to the pot.
2. For every 100g of dry goods, add ¼ cup (60mL) of hot water to a measuring cup and then add 1¼ teaspoons (5g) soda ash. Stir with a small whisk or spoon until dissolved.
3. Add the dissolved soda ash mixture to the pot of water and stir.
4. Add the goods to the pot. Slowly, over 30 minutes, bring the water in the pot to 180°F (82°C), keeping the water just under a simmer. Hold at this temperature for an additional 30 minutes, rotating goods gently from the top to the bottom of the pot every 10 minutes. Make sure the goods remain submerged when rotating.
5. Turn off the heat. Allow the goods to cool. Rinse the goods in warm water to remove excess soda ash. If the water in the pot is dark yellow or brown after scouring, repeat the process until the water is clear.
6. Squeeze excess scouring water from the goods. You can either proceed to mordanting the goods or store them wet in a plastic bag or bucket; in a cool dark place, they will be fine for 2 to 3 days. If you need to wait longer than this, allow the goods to dry and store them until you are ready to mordant.

* Mordanting

A mordant is a naturally occurring, water-soluble metallic salt that bonds the dye to the fiber. During the mordanting step, this salt is applied to the fiber. For the recipes in this book, I use aluminum-based mordants as they are nontoxic, safe for the environment, accessible, and produce bright, long-lasting color. In addition to aluminum, iron, copper, tin, and chrome have been used historically as mordants. You will not need to mordant goods that you will be dyeing with indigo, as the indigo dyeing process is very different.

Mordanting Cellulose-Based Fibers
To mordant cellulose-based fibers, I recommend using aluminum acetate followed by a bath to remove excess mordant. After a series of tests, I found that aluminum acetate created the brightest colors on plant-based fibers, with the best colorfastness.

Materials + Tools:

  • Aluminum acetate
  • 3-quart (2.8L) or larger stainless-steel pot or bucket with lid (size dependent upon the amount of goods)
  • Measuring spoons
  • Measuring cup
  • Stirrer, such as whisk or spoon
  • Thermometer
  • Tongs
  • Rubber gloves
  • Mask

1. You need only hot tap water for this recipe, so you can use either a pot or a bucket. Fill the vessel with enough hot water so the goods are covered and can move freely once added to the pot.
2. Be sure to wear a mask when weighing and dissolving aluminum acetate. For each 100g of dry goods, add ¼ cup (60mL) of hot water to a measuring cup and then add 2 teaspoons (6g) aluminum acetate; stir with a small whisk or spoon until dissolved.
3. Add the dissolved aluminum acetate mixture to the pot of water and stir.
4. Add scoured, wet goods. Cover the pot to help retain the heat.
5. Stir the goods, rotating every 10 minutes. Make sure the goods remain submerged.
6. Let the goods sit for 2 to 24 hours. The longer you allow the goods to sit, the better lightfastness you will achieve.
7. Squeeze excess mordant water from the goods. You can either proceed to dyeing the goods or store them wet in a plastic bag or bucket in a cool dark place for up to 3 days. If you need more than 3 days, allow the goods to dry and store them until you are ready to dye.

* Baths for Cellulose-Based Fibers

Baths of wheat bran and chalk are used to remove excess aluminum acetate mordant. If you do not remove excess mordant, the fabric may look chalky and the color may be dull. This step takes place after the mordanting process, and before the dyeing process. The choice of bath impacts the dyed color. See the Shade Cards in the book for more information. You will be referred back to these baths as you work through the projects. The directions below are for the smaller-sized projects in the book, such as the socks. For larger sized projects that weigh more than 500g, use 5-gallon (18.9L) buckets and double the recipes.

Wheat Bran Bath
This bath can be used for up to 500g of goods. Discard after 12 hours.

Materials + Tools:

  • 2 cups (100g) wheat bran
  • 20 cups (4.7L) warm water
  • Two 11-quart (10.4L) buckets
  • Measuring cup
  • Stirrer, such as whisk or spoon
  • Sieve

1. Mix 100g wheat bran in 20 cups (4.7L) warm water. After 5 minutes, strain out the wheat bran using a sieve.
2. Dip the mordanted goods into the strained bath, making sure to wet thoroughly.
3. Wring the goods. Rinse. Proceed to the dyeing step.