Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Dying Cedar Bark

My Red Dye bath.

In this picture on the left, I am set up outside to dye cedar bark. With a large Stove pot, and an electric element to keep the dye bath Hot.

Dying  cedar bark into various colours, has been done since antiquity. Traditionally, natural dye's were used, such as the red Alder for red, and old man's beard for yellow, etc.

In this workshop I am using TinTex fabric dye, that can be purchased, at just about any Grocery or Dollar Store for about a dollar or two. It is a chemical fabric dye, but the process of dying whether using natural or synthetic dyes is much the same. Tintex and Rit are both septic friendly.

Alum or Aluminum Potassium Sulphate will be used for the mordant.  The mordant allows for the color to stick to the cedar bark. It is available as a spice, although expensive. Here in Vancouver you can mail-order it also online from Maiwa or https://maiwa.com/collections/alum or get it from the store. Much cheaper. Good for berry dyes too, like salal berry, etc.

Cedar Bark
We will be dying cedar bark, but the process is similar to dying other fibers. Cut and prepare your bark well in advance, and best to use when near dried. The dry bark will soak up the water and Alum that has been dissolved in the water, which will hold the color.

Materials per person
- 2 oz of cut cedar bark 1/8” or 1/4” wide
- 32g of Alum
- 32g of Tintex Red or Rit Black Fabric Dye
- 1, Quart Canning Jar (1 litre)

Additional Tools.
- kettle of boiling water
- cloth dish towels
- tongs or wooden spoon
- sink with running water

To Begin
Make sure the Quart Canning Jar is free from cracks and is clean. No need to sterilize, but it does need to be clean. The jar you use for red dying, can be reused for the same color. Label each jar with the dye color it will be used for. Use only red dye in the red dye labelled jar.

Wear Gloves. Add in the jar, first add in the alum salt, the fabric dye powder and then the cut & prepared strips of inner cedar bark.

Next boil some water and pour into jar over the cedar bark. add enough water to cover the cedar bark. If bark starts to float add a little more water, until you can push the bark under (use a wooden spoon).

Put on window sill and agitate bath every 5-10 minutes, for about 30 minutes and then remove bark from red dye bath.

Put in bucket or sink and rinse with cold water. 

Let drip dry for an hour and then begin to bundle and dry completely. 

Dye bath can be reused. More alum may be needed for subsequent batches (about 1 teaspoon).

- Wear gloves to avoid dying your skin too
- Do not leave bark wet in plastic bag
- Always dry your bark over night.