Unusual Claimed Dye Source and a New Instance of an Old Issue
Dear folks -
In Selcuk I also enountered a piece (not for sale) that the owner claimed had an unusual dye source and that seems to be a new instance of an old issue. I apologize in advance for the quality of the images.
The piece above is a fragment. A small mat created by taking the sides off a larger piece. The ends with the kilims are original.
The owner of this piece made two claims about it that seem noteworthy.
First, he said that the dark wine red dye is from the stems of cherries.
I had just looked about the literature (in preparation for my recent TM lecture on red) for various natural sources of red and this is one that I had not heard of before (although it is plausible that village dyers tried everything and there is a lot of cherry juice in Turkey). I, subsequently, asked Mehmet Ucar in Konya, who is a long-time active natural dyer, whether he had ever heard of getting a natural red from cherry stems and he had not.
But there is some red transfer to a part of the warps on this piece (this is one sense in which these images are poor: they suggest that there is red transfer to lots of white areas in this fragment and there is not).
I commented on this, saying that the natural dyers that I knew in the U.S. seemed of the opinion that natural dyes do not transfer.
That if the mordant operates properly a chemical bond is formed and such transfer is not possible. And if the mordant does not operate properly, it is not the case that transfer is possible, the natural dye being used will simply not color the stuff being dyed at all.
He disagreed and made an argument in halting English, the specifics of which I did not really follow, indicating that when "fresh" some transfer is possible for natural dyes. A dealer in Cappadocia made a similar argument about an "ak chuval" with red on its white goat hair warps, saying that transfer is possible when natural dyes are fresh, if the dyed material has not been rinsed adequately.
These indications violate my understanding of the supposed chemical bond formed in natural dyeing when the mordant operates properly. They seemed to me to be two new instances of an old issue that we have discussed here before: whether natural dyes ever transfer.
R. John Howe
You wrote, ...natural dyers that I knew in the U.S. seemed of the opinion that natural dyes do not transfer. ... if the mordant operates properly a chemical bond is formed and such transfer is not possible. And if the mordant does not operate properly, ... the natural dye being used will simply not color the stuff ...
Meaning no disrespect to your natural dyer friends, this flies in the face of experience for anyone who has dropped a crushed blueberry or a cherry, spilled red wine or blood, or got grass stains onto his/her clothing. Those colors are as natural as any can get, and they transfer to whatever they contact. They are removable (some with considerable difficulty), but they transfer.
Yes, but the instances you cite do not seem to be those in which a mordant is involved.
My understanding is that the fact that a given stain is from a natural source is not the sufficient condition, it is when a dye from a natural source is combined with a mordant that they are claimed not to transfer.
Understand that I have done no natural dyeing myself. So I'm just reporting, but I don't think my report is controversial.
R. John Howe
Unless I am hallucinating when I see stains from various plant juices that contact textiles, it is demonstrably untrue that ... if the mordant does not operate properly, ... the natural dye being used will simply not color the stuff ...
I don't think the cited assertion is any more controversial than the one about the earth being flat, and for pretty much the same reasons.
Yes, I see what you mean.
I did find indications that one can color textiles with madder, cold and without a mordant. Don't know how fast such a dye would be, but it can be done.
But maybe my repeating what dyers have said about what happens if a mordant does not operate correctly is diverting from the central claim made by at least the two Turkish dealers I mention in this thread. That claim has to do with a naturally dyed red which WAS mordanted.
The natural dyers I know say that a mordanted natural dye will not tranfer to other areas after dyeing. I think these two Turkish dealers were claiming that even mordanted natural dyes can transfer early after dyeing.
I think that the natural dyer statement is the likely source of the practice by many collectors to believe that if there is evidence of transfer, that must mean the dyes are synthetic.
I'm not defending any of this, just saying that that is what the natural dyers say and what I think the source of this collector practice is.
R. John Howe
OK. Wouldn't you know, the only language I seem able to easily translate to
rugdom is "rugdealerese".
The main dye ingredient in "Cherry stem red", I'd say, is probably obtained from the dumpster next to the maraschino cherry bottling factory. Maraschino cherries are dyed with cochineal.
These dyers have their wealthy ignorant counterparts in the West who dye with cochineal in it's more concentrated, but pricier, packages of Koolaide. Sue
Who said anything about bottled Maraschino cherries?
Cherries actually grow on trees, right here in Virginia (for example), and - believe it or not - they're cherry red right on the tree. Get some of the juice on your clothes, and you'll have cherry red stains to show for it. I know. I've done the experiment.
To your question - I did.
You are confusing dyes with stains. Technically they are very different. Sue
Are you fellows possibly mixing up staining (i. e., fruit juices) with dyeing (madder, etc.)?
Hi Sue and Rich
We had a thread about color awhile back. I don't remember whether it's still on the board, or if it got archived or deleted. No matter which, we need to get to basics.
When any of us sees a color in a textile, what's stimulating our visual receptors is light of certain wavelengths. A textile appears to be red when it is illuminated, because light of wavelengths that we call red are reflected from it. Other wavelengths in the illuminating source are mostly absorbed.
How come one piece of yarn looks red and another doesn't? It's because something is attached to or deposited on the surface of the first one that isn't on the other, and that something absorbs light of wavelengths other than red, and reflects red.
If that something was put on by a dyer, we call it a dye. If it got spilled on accidentally, it's a stain. The same chemical can be a dye or a stain. It only depends on how it arrived on the yarn.
Sue, the things that we call dyes are simply chemicals that are selected for their ability to impart color, some of which have other desirable qualities like resistance to light-induced fading and little tendency to run when wet. If they come from natural sources rather than being synthesized in laboratories or chemical factories, we call them natural dyes. Natural dyes can also be synthesized nowadays, of course. Their chemical structures are not mysterious.
It may be true that some of the chemicals that are generally used as natural dyes in the rug-weaving cultures won't impart color if the proper mordant isn't used, but it isn't true that no natural compound will impart color without being mordanted. The pigments in cherry juice, blueberry juice, Port wine and grass are everyday examples. I don't know why they aren't used as dyes - probably either photolabile or prone to color runs, or both.
Spill the juice of a Bing cherry on your clothes, and they will get stained red. Spill the juice of bottled Maraschino cherries (which Sue has assured us gets its red color from cochineal) on your clothes, and they will get stained red. Unless we remove cochineal from the category, natural dye, the "technically very different" nature of dyes and stains is entirely semantic.
Steve, I disagree and will leave it at that. Sue
I don't have technical expertise in these areas. I'm only reflecting what I've heard from persons who do textile dyeing reasonably seriously with naturally occurring substances. I recall asking one friend (who was rug-savvy) why reds weren't produced by such conspicuous sources as beets. She said that the color imparted to a textile by something like a beet was by way of staining, i. e., the colored matter in the source simply adhered to the fabric. In dyeing, by contrast, the color was imparted through a chemical bonding process. (For example, in dyeing with indigo, the wool appears whitish for an instant as it emerges from the vat; then [through oxidization, I have been informed]), it turns blue.) I took the distinction, perhaps erroneously, to be analogous to the distinction between a mixture and a compound.
I don't know whether any of this is true in real life. I thought John's comments about the use and effect of mordants in the process was consistent with my understanding of the matter. I'm not convinced that the difference between staining and dyeing is merely semantic.
Hi Rich, Sue, and anyone else who's still reading this
The statement in the opening post with which I took issue is this:
And if the mordant does not operate properly, it is not the case that transfer is possible, the natural dye being used will simply not color the stuff being dyed at all. (emphasis added)
Note that there is nothing ambiguous about what it says a natural dye will do to yarn in the absence of mordanting: it won't dye it, it won't stain it, it won't paint it. It will not color the yarn at all. Everyone's experience shows that this is incorrect. This is inconsistent with Rich's dyer friend, who explains that beet juice will impart a color, but that this doesn't meet the dyers' definition of "dye". Here is the definition of the verb, "dye", from Merriam-Webster: to impart a new and often permanent color to especially by impregnating with a dye
I do not disagree with the notion that, in the absence of mordanting, the natural dyes generally used on rug yarns won't do what a good dyer would like them to do. But at least some of them will impart a color to whatever they get onto.
After some reflection, I think I understand the differences of opinion about the distinction between dying and staining. My guess is that the people who do dye textiles, like many specialist groups, assign meanings to terms that are much more specific than those in general use. From what I see here, it appears that they distinguish dying from staining on the basis of the use of mordants. If that's the case, there is no arguing that you can dye without a mordant - that would be incorrect by definition.
The remaining mystery, to me, is why anyone experienced with dyes would say that no color is imparted by a dye unless a mordant is present. A simple explanation would be careless wording in an off the cuff remark. If I'm correct here, he meant that dying (in the sense that a dye person understands the word) wouldn't happen.
Can anyone confirm this interpretation, or am I still out in left field?
The statement was mine and was from memory (although pretty deeply implanted).
The response was to the question of what happened in natural dyeing if the mordant didn't operate as it should (the questioner was looking for a circumstance in which, perhaps, transfer after natural dyeing might be possible).
But as you point out, a little reflection clearly suggests that the statement cannot have been the one I quoted.
I'll need to talk again to a natural dyer to reorient myself about what happens if (in an effort to dye with a natural dye) the mordant doesn't "fix" the dye on the stuff being dyed. It seems likely that the answer will be that coloring can occur, but the result will not be water-fast.
R. John Howe
My understanding of the issue is that the practical and functional difference is in how well fixed the color becomes in the process. Certainly, steeping fabric in any number of fruit juices, inks, etc., will impart color. The question is, will it do so uniformly and permanently. I believe not, for the most part. In addition, I believe wool is one of the fabrics most resistant to taking color acceptably unless properly mordanted.
Getting back to your cherry stem question, do you give the dealer's claim much credence? We all know dealer's are given to saying all sorts of things, and I believe many of them believe what they are saying. However, it doesn't seem very likely that a mysterious source of red would be lurking right smack in the middle of the rug market in Turkey, and nobody else would know about it. Does the color look to your eye like something you haven't seen before?
Hi Rich -
Well, I know this dealer is respected by his peers.
He is a serious, even a scholarly seeming person, who no longer deals in rugs and textiles much.
So, I don't think he was making up what he said. He had another set of pieces in his shop that he claimed had been dyed in the same way. These were two fragments that he had cut out of an old khorjin and mounted vertically under glass. They looked like tent band fragments at first.
He described how he had bought this khorjin and how he loved these fragments. The were noticably fine and he took one out of its glass frame and let me feel it. He said when he touches it he can "hear" its age. Of course, my hearing is so bad that even with $6K worth of electronic assistance I could barely hear him, so I was not in position to attempt to have his claimed experience.
I was surprised that I could not find another person who had heard of dyeing for red with cherry stems, but I was also surprised at how local lots of the various facets of rugs and textiles seem to be in Turkey.
For example, grain bags seemed plentiful in Bergama. But I didn't see one in Gocek, in Antalya or in Konya. The dealer in Selcuk said that he sometimes to saw them, but they seemed not frequent in his area either. In Konya, grain bags seemed part of another "world."
So maybe practices and knowledge of them are more compartmentalized than one would think.
Harald Bohmer would be the sort of person to ask. If he has not heard of a cherry stem red, then one might question this indication, but at the moment I'd be inclined to believe that this dealer is stating what he believes to be the truth.
R. John Howe
That is most interesting. Your observation about how "local" much of the ambience is in a given market area exemplifies how useful it is to get right on the scene.
Your man "hears" the age of his special pieces. Hmmm. Maybe he's speaking figuratively. Or maybe his sense for these things is ultra-refined. We must keep in mind there are dreamers in every culture. I'm not necessarily dismissing his statements. It will be interesting to see whether anyone appears on the thread to illuminate this issue knowledgeably.
BTW, were his khorjin fragments ones you would have thought to put under glass?
He may well have been speaking figuratively about "hearing" the age of these fragments, but that was his sentence.
The fragments were very attractive indeed and I can see why he treated them as special (of course, I also wondered what led him to cut them out of the larger khojin, but this is the same man who was excited to see what was under the leather of my heybe).
They were noticeabley fine. One was a better instance of design and the other and I asked if it was for sale. He seemed to say yes, but we never got round to price (his wife invited us upstairs for dinner). My wife suggested that I not raise it with him again, because she thought she had seen in his expression that he didn't want to sell it.
I have written him by email thanking him for his hospitality and saying that while I would never press anyone about a piece that they were not ready to sell, that if that fragment ever became available, I would like to hear about it.
It was a very nice and I think older piece.
R. John Howe
reds will be reds
Wow, lots and lots of posts with not so many learned references. So, in that
vein, I will share my thoughts, hold the academic footnotes.
1. Nothing in natural dyes magically keeps them from bleeding, staining adjacent areas, or "dying" adjacent areas. Improper washing is one cause, improper mordents, unwashed or greasy wool, is another and use of dyes from natural substances are no defense...after all, most artificial reds are chemically identical to one of the color producing elements of madder.
2. Natural red dyes can "bleed" 100 years after being improperly dyed. Again, nothing in the chemical nature of the dye and/or mordant will protect against improper application or procedure. This is especially apparent in Turkmen rugs. And it is also more common with coachinal dyes which required a different and apparently more precise process to make fast.
3. Mordants are also used (and required) with many "artificial" dyes, just not necessarily the same ones that are used with many natural dyes...ie alum. Just because a dye is "chemical" does not make it a direct dye.
4. You can dye a material, especially wool, with natural dyes without use of a mordant...but the dyes will not be fast and will run....but that doesn't mean that they will disappear. For that to happen you might have to leave the material under a running hose for a few months.
I can back up those statements but what the heck...
Dear folks -
Jack Williams is right about the character of this conversation. I was indulging in near travelogue and in the anecdotal. I was also "remembering" (and apparently misremembering) the sorts of things I have heard natural dyers I know say over the years about whether natural dyes transfer.
I think the default position is that they don't (I assume that means if properly mordanted) and that an instance of color transfer is usually taken as evidence that the dyes involved are not natural. And I know that many collectors act as that is the case, rejecting out of hand, as likely dyed with synthetics, any instance of color transfer.
But there should be some good science in this area by now.
I would be interested to hear what the latter says about the circumstances under which transfer can occur with natural dyes. Also whether the claim that properly mordanted natural dyes simply don't run - ever - is confirmed by the scientific evidence.
R. John Howe
We did a Salon on color running and related matters nearly 7 years ago:
I mention this only to give anyone interested a heads up on what's already been posted, since the information there may be relevant.
The notion that natural dyes never run seems borderline absurd to me, although I'm happy to accept the fact that, when done well, running is very unusual. The proposition that they never run if the mordanting is done properly looks to me as though it's probably a statement with a definition embedded in it that makes it true no matter what. If, as I suspect, the dyers define proper mordanting as mordanting that absolutely prevents color runs, then they will immediately conclude (correctly, by definition) that any color run that they see resulted from improper mordanting. Arguments in which the conclusion is embedded in the proposition are, in the words of one of my former mentors, always true but seldom terribly profound.
Hi Steve -
I remembered your "stray reds" salon and Hali contribution when I first wrote in this thread.
It is useful to reread some of what was said then again.
We had more science (mostly in the form of comments from Paul Mushak) in that conversation than we have so far in this one.
I do note in my reread that Mushak seems to accept the notion that properly mordanted natural dyes do not run. Also he does not quite see as nonsensical the possibility that unmordanted natural dyes might not produce color, at least not color that would survive rinsing. He does treat this latter thing as something for experiment, but he does not forclose this possibility conceptually.
Last, it seems finally that we did not achieve much resolution about a similar set of issues in that conversation either.
R. John Howe
Oh, I wasn't suggesting that the matter was resolved 7 years ago, only that some might find the discussion useful and/or interesting.
I don't doubt that unmordanted dyes would be lost with prolonged rinsing, but it might take an awful lot of rinsing to do it. On a few occasions, I've had red items in the same laundry load with white tee shirts, and the tee shirts came out pink. Obviously, some dye (synthetic, of course) came off the red items (not enough to obviously change their color, even after many washings), and enough deposited on the tee shirts to render them pink. The pink color on the tee shirts seems very resistant to removal by repeated washing. This seems paradoxical, but I've inadvertently done this experiment many times, always with the same result.
Your mention of Paul Mushak reminds me that I have the ORR article about identification of natural dyes that he wrote, and have been holding it for quite awhile hoping that I can reach him and get his permission to put it on Turkotek. We already have the publisher's approval, but I don't have contact information for Mushak. If anyone knows how to reach him, I'd appreciate finding out.
Yes, that's the series he wrote with Ananda, Saul's wife and that we made herculean efforts to reclaim from the ORR archives.
I had thought that we were stuck only about getting permission from ORR's publisher. Wondered why it hadn't appeared long ago.
R. John Howe
We've had approval from Ron O'Callaghan (ORR Publisher) for a long time. Legally speaking, that's all we need, since ORR owns the copyright. I think we owe the author the courtesy of having his permission anyway.
I have received a lead on contacting Mushak, and will get after that in the next day or so.
Your "dyeing" experience brought up a ghost that's got me laughing. It is on it's way to becoming a family legend as the youngest generation love it and I' m sure they will pass the story on.
I grew up with a lot of brothers who all miraculously learned how to do their own laundry on the same day. It was the day after our mother accidentally tossed all of their red sports uniforms into the washer on top of all of their underwear which turned shocking pink and they had no choice but to wear them to school that day. Sue
Ah yes, that pink underwear situation. One of the calculated risks of growing up male with limited skills in the laundry area. Tragically, it often strikes when the poor guy is at college.
"...If that something was put on by a dyer, we call it a dye. If it got spilled on accidentally, it's a stain. The same chemical can be a dye or a stain. It only depends on how it arrived on the yarn."
It could not be said more clearly. But let me qualify: if the stain was put on by a dyer, we would call it a 'direct dye.'
Mordanted dyes have several advantages over direct dyes: light faster, faster to washing, mordants can be transported more conveniently and allow for a wider variety of colours all from the same dyestuff. And especially, direct dyes like cherry or blueberry juice may work allright on cotton, but not so well on wool.
Mordants provide the bridge between the molecules on the wool fibres and the actual dyestuff by forming an insoluable metal-organic compound, this way allowing for much better performance as if wool was dyed directly. In case of slapdash followance of receipies or varying quality of material the situation may have arrisen that more dyestuff was applied than was appropriate given the amount of mordanted wool - the excess dyestuff (not bound by a mordant and this way having become a direct dye) would bleed out, best in a controlled way by rinsing in lots of water (at least this is how it works on wool).
Getting 'ball-pen direct dye' out from white jeans, is a different matter.
Not OK, Horst. A stain, regardless of who spills it onto fiber, is not a direct dye. It is still just a stain. Sue
It seems likely to me that we're dealing with words used in specific ways by dyers and in less specific ways by the general public. This is common among specialists, and lets them communicate more easily.
It would be helpful if you would explain what you understand to be the meanings of "stain", "dye" and "direct dye"; in each case, the noun as well as the verb. Just telling people that they're wrong without revealing the basis neither contributes much to the discussion nor enlightens the ignorant (like me, for instance).
Steve, Being pressed for time, I just googled this for you. I havn't read
much of it but it looks pretty accurate. I'll read it more closely latter.
I went to the link, and here's how it defines "Direct Dye" (the noun form):
The "direct dye" classification in the Color Index system refers to various planar, highly conjugated molecular structures that also contain one or more anionic sulfonate group.
It doesn't define "stain" (verb or noun) or "dye" (verb or noun), so it doesn't take me very far in the direction of knowing how a stain differs from a direct dye.
I tried following it up with Google searches on Color Index and Colour Index, which didn't help much, either.
I went to Encyclopedia Britannica online. Here's what it has to say:
DIRECT DYE also called Substantive Dye, any of a class of coloured, water-soluble compounds that have an affinity for fibre and are taken up directly, such as the benzidine derivatives. Direct dyes are usually cheap and easily applied, and they can yield bright colours. Washfastness is poor but may be improved by aftertreatment. Most packaged dyes sold for home use are direct dyes.
As you can see, it's less specific than the Color Index System with regard to chemical structure.
You obviously have a pretty firm notion of what "dye", "direct dye" and "stain" mean and how the words should be used. When time permits, just writing them down in a post would be helpful to those of us trying to figure out what you're saying and why.
There is a lot of semantics in this discussion, and a lot of it is probably my fault. However, I believe Horst's brief statement of the practicalities of the matter is quite accurate, and expresses (much more precisely than I did) my working, non-scientific understanding of how this stuff resonates in the area of textile weaving as a traditional craft.
As I have a serious interest in dyeing I went to the best sources on the subject I could find for definitions because definitions are important in finding a path. I can't read German so I went to English sources from the times when natural dyes were being synthesized and taught. Surch the Turkotek Archives to review what Michael Bischof has to say on the subject. In my lab experiences he's the modern times guy with the most useful information, in print, by far.
A lot of things remain to be discovered which is complicated by many modern techniques used to process fibers from the soil on up--any one of which, if not accounted for, can make the lab work useless. For instance almost all modern undyed and unbleached yarns, if one can find them, have been mordanted with who knows what. This is done to so that a company's line of yarn products will have the same shrinkage rate, etc. There are hundreds of such complicating wrenches in the works -- none of which is printed nor required on product lables. Dyeing is complicated and a scattershot approach yields nothing. Your dictionary is still useless. You like to still quote from it though so what else can I say ? If you like the idea that dyestuffs impregnate fibers there is nothing I can do about it. Does it define a dyefailure as an abortion or something? What is it's definition for "tribe"? Sue
You and I have been down this road too many times before. If you have information to share that goes beyond the declaration that you know some things that prove that somebody else is wrong, either provide the basis for it or keep it to yourself. Until you (or somebody else) comes up with something better as a source of what words mean, a dictionary will just have to do. It can be pretty bad in how certain words are used in specialized fields, but if your information comes from ...English sources from the times when natural dyes were being synthesized and taught, I'll go with the dictionary.
You somehow must have missed something in the chemical company linked definition of what a direct dye is. Didn't you find the bit about Retayne useful? I thought you would like it. I haven't used it myself but everyone who I know of who uses it raves about it.
I've had a chance to look more closely at the offerings on that site, this morning, and I think it is actually a pretty good primer on the subject. In case anyone's interested, I'd say it's worth reading. Sue
Not only did I miss it, I just went back and looked and can't find the word Retayne in the linked page at all.
Anyway, the issue is simply the definitions of the words "dye", "stain" and "direct dye", each of which can be used as a noun or a verb. The nuts and bolts of how to do it may flow from those definitions, but "how do you operate an automobile?" and "what is an automobile?" are different questions with different answers.
So far, your explanation for twice announcing that my use (and Horst's) of the words stain, dye and direct dye are wrong has consisted of,
1. a link to a site that doesn't contain definitions of two of the three words;
2. a reference to ...English sources from the times when natural dyes were being synthesized and taught, whatever that means;
3. a suggestion that Peter Bischof knows what you mean, and if we spend enough time with what he wrote, we'll figure it out.
Again, if you have nothing more to contribute than assertions that other people are wrong, keep them to yourself unless you include the basis for those assertions.
Retayne is in the fourth line from the bottom in the third paragraph. Sue
Aha! That page displays very oddly on my computer, the upper part showing black text on a white ground, then some links, then a dark blue background on which the text continues.
I don't think it contributes to the definitions of the words, although it explains some of the problems and their solutions in direct dying.