poetry and prose about place

harvesting colour – mordants and modifiers

with 2 comments

Dyeing textiles involves more than just the dyestuff.  Simmering cloth in a dye bath may initially produce a beautiful colour, but without help, the colour may fade in sunlight, or over time.


Mordants:  Mordants are substances that assist the dyeing process by improving the colour-fastness of dyes (to washing and light), and by modifying the strength and quality of colour.  Mordants bond with both dyestuff and fibre so the resulting colour is more permanent.  Mordants include metals such as aluminum, copper and iron.  I have a quantity of a safe mordant, alum (aluminum sulphate) and I may try other mordants as I become more experienced.

Colour modifiers: After a fibre is dyed, colour modifiers can be used to increase the range of colour possibilities.  In some cases this means changing the pH with modifiers such as vinegar.  Modifiers also include after-mordants (additions of copper or iron).  Adding iron as a modifier results in ‘saddening’ of the colour …  for example, a brown obtained from a tannin-rich dye can become almost black.


My reading about mordents and modifiers made me think about keeping colours vivid in memory.  Perhaps, when we remember a particular scene in full vibrant colour, there is some ‘memory-mordent’ involved !!!  In the poem, the mordants aluminum, copper and iron are there in the coastal environment, strengthening memory …


Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia

Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia





how do I explain

the being present

the exquisite memory

the precise phthalo

of ocean, the cobalt

of sky, salt breeze,

viridian horizon


perhaps some mordant made

this memory strong – aluminum

from my morning tea, copper sulphate

patina from the weathervane

pointed landward


and the boathouse

mooring, rusted

saddened the colour



near Torr Bay, Nova Scotia

near Torr Bay, Nova Scotia


Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

March 14, 2014 at 7:25 am

2 Responses

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  1. It is intriguing to see how your mind goes from your dye experiences to translation into poetry. It is always a learning experience reading your blogs.


    Carol Steel

    March 14, 2014 at 7:47 am

    • Hi Carol. I can hardly wait to get into this in more depth. I am finding these poems are not as easy as the ‘growing and gathering’ poems but perhaps there is greater potential for metaphor. Thanks! jane


      jane tims

      March 21, 2014 at 9:23 am

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