Copper sulphate


Used as a MORDANT in natural dyeing, which allows the plant pigments to bond with the fibres.

Copper tends to take the dyed yarn colours towards the brown and green ends of the spectrum. A natural dye that comes out bright yellow with an Alum mordant will look very different with copper.

Used mainly on protein fibres such as wool, alpaca, silk. Although we love to use copper as a premordant, many dyers simply use it after dyeing to push the colours a different direction. To do this, add only 25% by weight of the usual premordanting amounts. Dissolve in hot water. Remove fibre from the dyebath, stir in the copper solution, re-enter the fibre and heat for another 15 minutes. Cool and rinse as usual.

TO USE: weigh the dry fibre. Calculate mordant required for 2% WOF (weight of fibre) and white vinegar at 40ml per 100g fibre. Weigh copper and dissolve in hot water. Fill pot with sufficient water for the fibre to move, add copper, vinegar and stir. Enter fibre. Bring to 180-200 deg F and hold 1 hour. Stir yarns frequently. Cool overnight, then wash well. Dye fibre immediately or dry for later use. These directions that include vinegar are recommended by Jenny Dean in her various natural dye books. Older recipes tend to use 8% copper sulphate all by itself, as a premordant.

Spent mordant solution is best disposed of on the ground, such as a gravel driveway. Keep well away from tree roots and anywhere that may drain to a pond or water feature, since copper sulphate is toxic to plants, fish and other aquatic life.

CAUTION: wear a mask when handling powders. Wear gloves when using copper, particularly when rinsing or handling wet yarns as can be absorbed by the skin. BEST DONE OUTDOORS or with very good ventilation. Avoid breathing fumes.

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