During my recent woad-dyeing session, I happened to dye a skein that had been mordanted with alum. I was interested to observe that this alum-mordanted skein dyed a greener, more turquoise shade of blue than the unmordanted skeins. I wondered how I had failed to notice this shade difference before. I can only explain it as follows: Usually, I use unmordanted skeins for indigo & woad dyeing, unless I am using indigo to over-dye a skein already dyed in a dye that requires a mordant. As I always use indigo as the last dye in a 2 or 3-dye sequence, I suppose this was the first time I had used an alum-mordanted skein that had not already been dyed. As to why I always use indigo as the last dye in a sequence – I think this is because the depth of colour from indigo is easier to control than the depth of colour from other dyes. So by using indigo as the last dye, I can dip for a short time initially & then build up the colour gradually. I usually also reserve the other dyebath, in case I need to add some more of the first dye after the indigo (or woad) dyeing process.

2 replies
  1. Debbie Bamford
    Debbie Bamford says:

    Hi Jenny,
    I have known this for quite a time – I take unmordanted out with me when demonstrating in period, but always mordant yarns for home in case I need to do some quick dyeing cos I’m running out of stock – the colour difference is noticable with indigo or woad.

    Nice blog!


  2. Nikki Wyscaver
    Nikki Wyscaver says:

    Hi Jenny,

    I just heard about you blog and wouldn’t you know, on my first visit to your site, I found an answer that I didn’t even know I was looking for. My first experiment with Natural Dyes was with Woad. After studying your book Wild Colour…I forged ahead with my woad and sure enough…I’d had some alum mordanted yard that I toss into the woad vat. The blue/green was wonderful, but I didn’t realize at the time why I got this lovely green and didn’t know (but NOW I do) how to recreate it!!!

    Thanks so very much to your dear husband for his gift to you and your readers!!


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