Do not allow lack of information keep you from experimenting with

            plants for natural dyes. Remember some basics and you will most

            likely get a lovely and lasting color. If you find a recipe for wool

            and want to adjust it for your basket cellulose fibers like reed or

            cane, remember some rules.


            1) You will have the best result if you pre-mordant your material.

            Cellulose (plant) fibers can handle and need more alum than wool or

            protein fibers. Usually dyers use cream of tartar with alum for wool

            due to the potential harmful effects on wool. I think any kind of

            water softener is good with cellulose fibers. If you do not

            pre-mordant with alum or tannic acid; at least add 1/8 cup alum to

            your dyebath.


            2) For deeper shades of color use alum and tannic acid. Soak your

            fibers overnight or even several days. Remember to add water daily

            and stir well.


            3) Use the leaves and stems of the red sumac plant for tannic acid.


            4) If you are a beginner, make your dyebath and add your mordants to

            the dyebath. As you become more experienced, mordant your fibers one

            to four days before adding them to the dyebath.


            5) Two of the safest and best mordants for cellulose fibers are alum

            and tannic acid. Order your alum; don't settle for the grocery store

            variety. You can order iron or use a rusty nail. If you want

            consistent results use powdered iron. Iron will change the color in

            some dyebaths. Walnut dye will change to charcoal with iron.


            6) Remember to rinse dyed fibers with equal water and vinegar to

            help set the dye.


            7) Most basket weavers add plain salt to the dyebath to help set the

            color. The books I have on wool dyeing do not emphasize the use of

            salt. But what harm can the salt do the cellulose fibers? They are

            much tougher than wool.


            8) An alkaline solution is OK but don't use a strong acidic

            solution, especially vinegar.


            9)  It is important to understand substantive dyes and how the

            mordanting process differs from that used with berries and flowers.