This morning I am gathering all my supplies and nerve to dye the cheesecloth I will use for the dragonfly wing “skin.” So far, at every step, my perfectionism is rearing it’s horrible head and making me wish I had just gone with the easier cold dye solution. There is a lot of precision required in the measuring, dissolving and maintaining both the mordanting solution and madder dye baths. It’s ironic that for such a perfectionist as myself that precision is not my best thing.
Right now I have 4 sq. yards, or 1.75 ounces, of white, cotton cheesecloth in a 5%, 100 degree aluminum acetate bath. I am to maintain the 100 degrees for one hour and turn the cloth frequently. Every few minutes I go and stir the cloth and check the temperature and so far have had to add a little cold tap water to bring the temp down a tick. Will this affect the solution ratio poorly?? Dunno. Just checked again. 101. Turned the fire off. Thirty-eight minutes to go.
So mordant literally means, “to bite.” The mordanting process is necessary so that the dye pigment will become chemically linked to the fabric and not simply wash away. It also helps to brighten and deepen the dye’s color and help increase lightfastness. Turns out that aluminum acetate is also used topically to ease a myriad of skin irritations. It is particularly useful on wet or weeping lesions. Good to know.
Okay – the mordant bath is completed, the fabric has rested and now it’s time for the good stuff – RED. The red that I chose for the wing scales is “Brick.” I want a color that will contrast yet compliment the scarlet red of the rest of the bug’s wings. In order to achieve the deep, rich brick red without the orangeyness, I used processed madder root in combination with calcium carbonate. To gain the clearest, brightest color, madder needs hard (mineral-rich) water – thus the addition of the calcium carbonate. I didn’t know this previously, but Seattle and surrounds have the softest water in the US.
I prepared the dye bath, added the fabric and simmered them together at 160 degrees for one hour. Next time, I will get better tips on how to best maintain the temp. It was worrisome as the color will go muddy brown very quickly if the temperature goes above 160. After the hour I let the fabric cool and sit in the bath overnight.
When I got up this morning, I dumped the dye bath and rinsed the fabric. I was astonished at how fast the dye was. I only needed to rinse the fabric twice before the water ran clear. The resulting color is incredibly rich and evenly distributed. I love the color! I kinda want to wear the cheesecloth as a wrap and not cut it up – but I will. That’s coming next.