Screen Print – Take 1….impact of ammonia on iron?

24 Aug

My arm is now well enough to use from my shoulder surgery but not quite up to dye pot or wrangling shuttles. So I’ve had time to puzzle over a Catherine Ellis workshop presented in San Antonio in Feb 2012.  I am having a lot of fun but do have some questions.  I hope some of my dye blog buddies and dye list mentors will offer some insight.   This photo shows you the stenciled iron ferrous print that I did on mordanted silk yardage.

Ferrous sulfate stencil before its trip thru the dye posts

Ferrous sulfate stencil before its trip thru the dye posts

Now here is my puzzle,  you’ll see the photo comparison of my persimmon bath to my lichen bath.The big question is why did the iron screen print not hold up to the lichen dye?  It did hold up to the persimmon.  Here are the pieces after their trip thru the dye bath.


Top is lichen, bottom is persimmon, both with ferrous sulfate print


Top is lichen, bottom is persimmon, both with ferrous sulfate print, compare to the screen print above before cold dips


  • I am working with my persimmon dye and my lichen dye from here on my property.
  • The persimmon is just juice from the persimmon that has been aged and smashed to extract it. (high tech machinery is a sausage stuffer)
  • The lichen has soaked in an ammonia and water bath for about 4 months to extract the color.
  • The silk I am working with was scoured and PREMORDANTED with alum acetate PRIOR to printing.
  • I did so using the Ferrous Acetate mixture straight or diluting it with the persimmon or the lichen.
  • After screen printing my samples I dunged them with calcium carbonate, rinsed them and allowed them to dry.
  • All samples then took a trip thru either my persimmon or lichen cold baths.  My lichen usually is fixed by heat.  I used the cold soak just to see what happened.
  • Both prints of ferrous sulfate were dark prior to entering the dyebath. Silk samples were soaked either 5 minutes or 10 minutes in a cold bath.

On all my lichen samples the 100% ferrous sulfate came out lighter than the persimmon samples. I am mystified.

Do you think the lichen/ammonia mixture impacted the ferrous sulfate. In other words, does ammonia affect iron mordant? It is a very high ph. The smell is strong and the ph is high 1 part ammonia to 3 parts water for the color extraction. Normally when I take it to the dyepot I dilute it with water and put vinegar in to take the ph down. So I have two possible culprits, the ammonia and the vinegar that might have affected the ferrous print.

Overall the printing is fun, I am a strict novice on applying stencils or any other surface design but it is a fun journey to think in that direction with natural dyes. Of course I could make this all the more easier if I would use the natural dye extracts but since I can get these two colors (lichen and persimmon) from my valley I am running out the possibilities with them for now.

Obviously the persimmon is a strong candidate for more experimentation along with an indigo over dye.

The other issue is to put the lichen thru a heat process to ensure that the lichen color deepens and stays.  I have no problem with skeins taking the lichen under a heat method.  Screen printing appears to need a different approach for my lichen brew.  Any brain biscuits would be welcome!

6 Responses to “Screen Print – Take 1….impact of ammonia on iron?”

  1. mazzaus September 12, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

    I wish I had anything to offer by way of a brain biscuit… but not a cracker to be had! I think that’s mystifying too.


  2. mazzaus September 28, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    Deb, I’d like to nominate you for the WordPress Family Blog Award… I love reading your blog and following your place-specific approach to dyeing. I hope that as your shoulder continues to mend you’re able to do more of what you love.


    • debmcclintock September 28, 2013 at 11:35 am #

      Thank you! What a neat award to create. You are right, it is like a family. We create our own path at our own speed, share the knowledge and take strength from others victories.


  3. trevor October 15, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    Hi Deb,

    Not really any advice, perhaps persimmon doesn’t have the sufficient tannins, pigments, etc that react with a iron mordant? Do you fix your mordants with wheat bran solution prior to dyeing? Michael Gracia considers is mandatory for dyeing with printed mordants. I haven’t tried this sort of dyeing yet, but he has clear instructions on the DVD i bought from Maiwa supply.



    • trevor October 15, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

      Sorry, i mean the lichen…plus excuse the typos/grammar…considers this, not is. oops


      • debmcclintock October 22, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

        thanks Trevor, yes, I am using the Garcia method, I learned it from Catherine Ellis and the dvd’s. The concensus from folks is that the high ph somehow threw the printing off with the lichen. I did have it in a ammonia bath and it was at about 11ph. Next time I am going to do the lichen first and then print and see how that works.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: