Soy mordanting

Ah, the humble soybean.  It gives me enormous respect for Japanese culture to see all that they have achieved with this rather unpromising bean (to say nothing of all the other skills and treasures of Japanese culture). Tempeh and tofu are very much on our menus at present, too.

I am just using it to mordant cellulose fibres ready for leaf prints, nothing as complex as tempeh, or even tofu. Usually I dip the fabric in the sea first when I’m visiting someone by the sea and then dry it and then begin with beans, but not this time. I forgot to take the cloth when I went visiting at Hove and the beans were already soaking. I measure out 3 cups of beans to every kilogram of fabric. I soak the beans overnight, grind them finely and dilute, then strain out the solids.

Then, it’s dip and dry at least three times.  So this week I made the most of hot weather: 4 dips on a single day.  These pieces of cloth are destined to be dyed by those who attend my dyeing workshop in January. It isn’t a difficult process to mordant this way, but there are a few steps to it.  I’ve decided to try mordanting in advance in the hot weather of summer.  Drying fabrics that have been through this process in winter is pretty trying and makes this a 4 day process, by the end of which the soymilk smells less pleasant. Mind you, even then, it takes about 5 minutes a day of actual effort for me!

Next, I’ll be testing one of these out to make certain sure there will be a good result on the day of the workshop. And perhaps, doing some more mordanting while the weather is perfect for it, as part of working toward taking advantage of the seasons to do the work that is most suitable to the weather and conditions.


Filed under Fibre preparation

25 responses to “Soy mordanting

  1. I’ve heard of this method, but have never tried it. How long do you let the fabric soak in each dip?


  2. Just until it is soaked through. No special waiting period. Then I squeeze it out and hang to dry (otherwise the precious soy juice just drips on the grass).


  3. That sounds like the treatment for me…. I have struggled with prints on cotton / linen and have an array of op shop clothes to transform


  4. I am going to try this! Off to the health food shop this afternoon to buy some soy beans … =D


  5. Anastasia

    Why do you need to dip them 4 times? Also have you ever tried it with just soy milk from a carton? DO you have photos of how they took the dye? Thanks!


    • I am not sure you do need to dip them 4 times, but the more dips I do, the better the results I get. If you search the blog for cotton or linen and leaf prints you’ll find lots of examples of how they turn out. Here and here for example. I used this technique on one side of the quilt in this post, and only one dip on the pastel, log cabin design side.


  6. Anastasia

    thanks for your super quick response! I have had great success eco printing wool and silk but not cotton. I am super keen to try this soy mordant thing!


  7. Thanks again for your generosity in sharing your skill with us! I have always want to eco-dye with cotton. I’ve heard about using soy to mordant cotton and linen, but not tried it. Have to used soy milk? This method is what I will try! Thanks again Mary – xx


  8. Dabney Rose

    Thank you for the informative post! I am curious about the first dip into the sea… 40 years ago, dyeing with rit in our basement, mom made sure i rinsed in salt water to help set? the dye? Is this why you dip into salt water?? Not that i live near any salt water.. but using a wood stove in the winter helps me do 4 dips in a day.


  9. Ania

    Thank you for the post, do you have any experiences with wash fastness of your soya milk mordanted fabrics?


  10. Rose

    Interested in why you dip your fabric in the sea? That is neat!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Rose, I was following the example set by some people in a class India Flint ran, that she reported on her blog. It’s hard to see how you can go wrong with sea water. Salt can act as a mordant, sea water is full of minerals so other effects seem likely, … well worth trying out! And besides, you visit the sea and every excuse is a good one, isn’t it? warmly, Mary


  11. Jude

    Hi Do you rinse between soaks and dips. The material gets very stiff.

    Liked by 1 person

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