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then dry out of direct sunlight.


You can re-use your dye bath a good few times, each time the colour will be lighter.


Mordants A mordant is a substance used to chemically bond dye to fibre. They can be used before, during and after the dyeing process, and can help increase wash and light fastness.


Tea is a substantive dye so it doesn’t need a mordant to help the colour hold fast. Different mordants can change the final colour though, with fascinating effects. Alum mordant is great for wool and silk. For cotton etc. I’ve tried combinations of alum and tannin. I cook the fibre in water with the mordant before it is dyed in these cases.


You can also add a tiny bit of iron to the dye bath for the last 15 minutes of cooking. Iron darkens (saddens) the colours, yay! Ready to use iron can be bought online, or you can


54 | ukhandmade | Spring 2012


leave rusty nails in water and vinegar for a few weeks and use the strained iron water.


I’ve chosen these mordants as


they’re some of the safest to use; but always wear rubber gloves, and a mask when handling powders.


More experiments... Rust dyeing combines beautifully with tea dye. The rusty iron oxide acts as a mordant and changes the fabric colour. These cotton poplin samples (see image below) were rusted with iron wire for a week, then overdyed with tea.


Any metal which can be made to rust will leave a stain on fabric. Sometimes spraying the work with a mix of vinegar and water will hasten the process. Keep an eye on it though, because too much rusting may eat holes in your fabric! Fabric which has been rusted will carry on corroding slowly over time, and is not as archival as un-rusted fabric.


When over-dyeing rusted fabric with tea the end result will be mottled, sometimes fabulously so. For more mottling, leave the tea leaves or bags in the dye pot with your fabric, and you can stir the fabric less too.


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