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Wild Colours natural dyes > mordants > cotton mordants > alum acetate advanced

How to Mordant Cotton with aluminium acetate

b) Mordanting cotton with aluminium acetate: advanced method (2 step)

This method yields better colours than using aluminium acetate alone but it requires pre-treatment with tannin which increases the light fastness of the dye.

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You will need;

  • 10 grams of gallnut extract (or source of tannin)
  • 10 grams of aluminium acetate
  • 100 grams of scoured cotton fabric or yarn

Step 1: Tannin treatment

  1. Soak 100 grams of cotton fibres in warm water for at least two hours.
  2. Half fill the dye pot with hot tap water
  3. Dissolve the gallnut extract in a small container with boiling water.
  4. Add the dissolved gallnut extract to the dye pot and stir.
  5. Add the wet cotton to the pot.
  6. Wearing rubber gloves check, that the water is not too hot for your hands, work the tannin well into the fabric or yarn for a few minutes, squeezing the fabric and then unfolding it a few times. If you are mordanting yarn, especially fine weaving yarn, work the fibre in the pot very carefully, otherwise the yarn will become tangled. Let the fabric or yarn sink to the bottom of the saucepan. Add a bit more hot water if there is space in the saucepan, but don’t fill to the very top.
  7. Leave the cotton in the pot for a couple of hours or overnight.

Step 2: Aluminium acetate

  1. Half fill the dye pot with hot tap water
  2. Dissolve the aluminium acetate in a small container with boiling water.
  3. Add the dissolved aluminium acetate to the dye pot and stir. There is no need for extra heat as the warmth from the hot tap water should be enough.
  4. Add the wet cotton (that has been treated with tannin) to the pot and wearing gloves, work the fabric or yarn inside the pot as you did with the tannin. Leave overnight. Wring well and dry. Liles recommends waiting until the vinegar smell has disappeared, which he says can take up to 4 days.
  5. When you are ready to dye, rinse the fibre carefully to remove any unattached mordant.

Go to:

How to scour cotton

Mordanting cotton with aluminium acetate: basic 1-step method

Mordanting with the traditional 3-step alum-tannin process

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Last updated on 28 December 2015
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