The Sorta Kinda Lab On Mordants This Time

Today I did a lab on how mordants affect yarn colors from natural dyes. I used the same book I used for the other lab. The natural sources I used were blackberries, onion skins, (decaf) coffee, and (Lipton) tea. It was so exciting to see the results. I was definitely shocked when some of the colors were extreme (which is really nice to have since I’ve only really seen very nice and soft colors from natural dyes online). 

So the lab was the same as the other lab, but this time I had to presoak the yarn in mordant. I also didn’t use vinegar or ammonium hydroxide. Mordants are metal compounds used in dyeing to help the dye color fast or to just change the color. The metal compounds ionize when you put them in water which allows for the metal ions to attach the fibers when they are soaking. The mordants I used were Potassium Aluminium Sulfate (Alum), Ferrous Sulfate (Iron), Copper Sulfate (Copper), and Stannous Chloride (Tin).


Alum was a plain-jane mordant. There’s nothing really special about it. It’s actually the only non-toxic mordant out of the four. It is also readily available at super markets. It gave the yarn very subtle colors, not to strong. I would use it if I was looking for something light.


Iron was a green-yellow color when in solution, however the yarn comes out white with the slightest tint of green. Iron makes the color a little bit stronger than Alum and a little darker. Unfortunately, I can’t read English anymore apparently, and I didn’t make the yarns easily identifiable as were laid out in the instructions. However, through process of elimination, iron made tea a greyish color or a very faint orange color. The other possibility could be the Alum.


Now this mordant is awesome! It was one of the more extreme mordants. When I took the pieces of yarn out of the Copper solution it was a mint green even though the solution was blue! The cool thing about this mordant is that it makes the base color of the yarn a mint green which could lead to some really cool colors. In the blackberries it lead to a blue-grey color, in tea a darkish green color, in coffee a light shade of the previous darkish green color, and in the onion skins a lightish green with hints of orange.


This was my favorite mordant! It’s also super awesome because you need very little of it. The tin created the most vibrant colors with the blackberries and the onion skins. The blackberries and the tin lead to a very deep (and beautiful) purple and with the onion skins it lead to a bright, almost neon yellow. The only down side to the tin is that it leaves the yarn a little rough. But I think I can deal with that. That’s the reason there’s Cream of Tartar and fabric softener!

The molecular formula of Potassium bitartrate

With all the mordants except Copper, I used Cream of Tartar. It’s supposed to buffer the acid or base of a mordant. It makes sure the acid doesn’t get too acidic or base doesn’t get too basic, which is good for the yarn. When yarn is shocked with too high of a pH or too low of a pH it destroys the fibers. Tin mordant shocks the yarn a little bit which makes the yarn a little rough. It’s also used in baking to make fluffier consistencies in products. Fun fact: Cream of tartar was first discovered in wine bottles that were previously used to make wine. Its chemical name is Potassium bitartrate (KC4H5O6).

These are the results:




Onion Skins

And these are some other pictures of the lab:

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My next action is to get that awesome purple color again and make something out of it! If you can’t tell yet, my favorite color is purple.

(If you were wondering, my awesome librarian ordered the mordants through Aurora Silks).  


4 thoughts on “The Sorta Kinda Lab On Mordants This Time

  1. You are making me want to dye all over again! This was an awesome experiment! And now I really want some other mordants to try out…I’m plotting now to get a safe with key lock…I have got to try that tin!

  2. Steven,
    Some of the colors are really beautiful!!! What mordant did you use to get the black color from the blackberries? And does that mordant continually give you the richest color or does that vary depending on the source?
    Also, have you thought about trying beets as a dye or perhaps red cabbage or turmeric? They are all relatively inexpensive and they produce a ton of color.
    Can’t wait to see a huge batch of yarn dyed!

    • Tin made the blackberries give off a dark purple. Yes. I found out that Tin although harsh brightens colors a lot. I tried red cabbage last time and it didn’t colorfast very well.

  3. Pingback: Dyeing For My Favorite Color « Tales of Steven

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