Rhubarb leaves as mordant part 1

Harvested the first rhubarbs, finally, and as a bonus to the lovely crumble pie I boiled the leaves to try using as mordant. The fumes being apparently toxic, I used a hotplate in the barn (clever thing that turns itself off), and forgot about them for a few days before I strained the liquid and added yarn.

Which I subsequently forgot about for another 3-4 days…..So, not only a mordant, but already dyed! I believe the colour, as I learned on some other blog, could be described as “mucky fawn”. (incidentally I have 6 hanks of this)


Well, we’ll see how it does with light and other dyes on top. I have a feeling it’s just going to be mucky with a hint of yellow….

I may or may not try this and not heat it AND pull it out a bit quicker, what do you say? Cotton?

Rhubarb leaf mordant part 2 >>

16 thoughts on “Rhubarb leaves as mordant part 1

  1. Very interesting – as I am also planning to try rhubarb mordant this year, I’m so glad you are doing all the experiments first, so that I will know what to do and (what not to do) by the time I get round to it 😉

    But I suspect fawn as a base won’t be a problem at all. Well perhaps if you want really bright and clear colours, but I like mucky colours (except I call them moody instead of mucky as it sounds a bit more edgy and artistic that way!). I reckon your fawn overdyed with madder for example would give you great brick red or terracotta colours, similar to what you’d get with madder and copper mordanted yarn.

    1. Wow, you do have some faith in me! I didn’t even look up lessons on ratios – I mean, I probably could have used double the water and yarn for these leaves now that I see what it looks like.

      Mordants are supposed to make the dyes last longer. The question is, if this is really more of an overdye. (underdye as it were) It’s silly to be calling it a mordant if it’s a modifier.

  2. It’s a very pretty mucky fawn 😉 (Pretty sure that other blog was mine 🙂 )

    I’m not brave enough to try mordanting with rhubarb … sadly I have to do all my dyeing in the kitchen so need to stick with non-toxic or all but non-toxic substances.

    I’ll be interested to see what colours you achieve with this 🙂

  3. ‘mucky fawn’ – made me laugh! that could describe our Corgi after a rain storm, too, I think. Fun to follow your experiments.

    1. Me too, I just had to adopt the term. I bet a corgi belly is just “yummy” after a trip outside!! Even our longlegged ones, if I don’t rinse or wipe them off properly, they leave “eco-prints” all over the floors….

  4. We tried rhubarb leaf mordant this past weekend at my workshop with a soda ash modifier, and got BRILLIANT yellows, rather than any reddish tones as is said to happen.

    1. Well, many yellows are intensified with alkaline, so that makes sense i guess. I did get a regular yellow on alum when only simmering the leaves instead of boiling, but I didn’t think about adding soda or pot ash.

      Actually I thought it was the roots that supposedly give red? Will you be doing a show and tell from the workshop? We wants to know all about how it went.

      1. the leaf liquer itself turned red when we added the soda ash but the fabrics and threads, no matter the fibre content, turned yellow

      2. Rhubarb contains oxalic acid, which, as its name suggests, is acidic. I got a very strong yellow, dyeing with rhubarb and brown onion skins – really, a mustard colour. I think, if I wanted an acidic pre-mordant or modifier, I’d choose something like a weak vinegar solution (acetic acid and water) -not as strong or hard on three fibres as oxalic and way less toxic.

        1. Yes, I think I’ll have to classify this as a modifier rather than a mordant. So far it has NOT helped the dye “grab” the yarn or make it more lightfast the way alum does, the talk that I’ve heard of people using it as a more eco friendly mordant is for me at least not of any value. But it’s been fun experimenting with, I have a hot plate that I can set up to boil in my barn so I don’t have to smell it, but I don’t think it’s worth my efforts, frankly. 😉

          Thanks for your input!

          1. That’s really interesting to hear – trying out rhubarb as a mordant was on my list of thing to try this year, but in the end I didn’t have the time/energy for it and now it sounds like I didn’t miss much!

          2. You know, with the yellow dyes such as weld and using the dark rhubarb hanks that got boiled, I can barely see a difference in colour after dyeing! (I’ll show all and compare when I have them dyed up, still 2 to go)

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