Red Cabbage Kinder Chemistry Update

After two days of solar soaking in their jars on a sunny windowsill, the Red Cabbage and strips of alum-acetate mordanted silk organza looked like this:

Left, water only; centre, water and acid/vinegar; right, water and alkali/ammonia (water, 250 ml; acid and alkali, 25% each)

Today, three days later, the solutions have changed colour dramatically, especially the green ammonia jar. Time to remove the silk.

Dye results on white silk

Water only: blue

Vinegar and water: lavender-purple

Ammonia and water: almost no change, just a slight greenish tinge to the white silk, not detectable in my photo.

Conclusion here: Pre mordanting silk organza with alum acetate fixes Red Cabbage colour in solar dyeing conditions. But for how long??? Hmm. TBD. And note that NO dye run off (crocking) took place during rinsing.

Note that my previous Kinder Chem experiment with RC used white cotton yarn, with Bulk Barn alum mordant in the jar. Dye results were pale wimpy blues plus no change in the ammonia jar.

Next Kinder Chem steps:

1. Eco bundling the solar-soaked cabbage. Cabbage Rolls Ta Da.

2. Exposing the silk to sun light to test light fastness

Next post: More eco printing for the chuppah.

Plus I am going to add a blog page listing eco print and stitch artists out there. It would be a nice community resource to have!

Finally, for real dye chemists, consult work by Dr. Paula Burch (online) and Dr. Dominique Cardon (in print). See links in this blog.


14 thoughts on “Red Cabbage Kinder Chemistry Update

  1. Thanks for sharing the results and processes–a very big help–my red cabbage is still hiding in the back of the fridge, trembling 🙂

    1. Abdul,

      Any thoughts on why the alkali/ammonia turned red cabbage green but failed to turn white silk green?

      It seems you are a real chrmist!

      Thanks for the feedbsck


  2. Very interesting.

    You inspired me to try an eco-print with cabbage. I just read your post about vinegar, and added some to some cabbage fabric (which was blue) and it instantly turned the fabric purple … magic!

  3. kitchen/kindergarten chemistry is a marvellous thing. one of my favourite sayings is that of George Bernard Shaw

    “we don’t cease to play because we grow old, we grow old because we cease to play”

    and “play” or “kindergarten chemistry” is how i discovered much of what i know today. that, and the challenge “what if?”

    warm wishes from the deep south

  4. Thats an amazing colour result. And incredible that the ammonia prevented due take up almost completely. I love using red cabbage. I am inspired to have another go with it today. And your idea of a list of Eco dyers and printers would be fantastic. If you come across anyone in western Australia may I add them to my growing list of western aussie creatives on my site?

    1. Hi Emma,

      Yes, by all means make a note of any Aussie artists.

      Re the red csbbage results:
      Some things I am asking myself about dye take-up.
      1. What difference does the silk organza make, if any, to the colour take up? Silk habotai and twill took well(summer/fall 2011) too, so possibly no difference. I would expect different results with cellulose fibres, plus different again with new fibres(even if well scoured before dyeing) and vintage (many times laundered, for example)
      2. What difference did mordanting with alum acetate make, as opposed to a food grade alum?
      3. What difference does pre-, -post or simultaneous mordanting make?

      So much of the eco printbfun is in the What If’s…

      Let us know your results and send your link for my eco printmaker page if you like


  5. Hi Wendy
    another west aussie dyer here.
    I had some lovely results using a combination of red cabbage and red onions, skins and cut off tops for a bit of sulphur (thanks India) on a silk jersey ended up with a cloth that is a beautiful blue with areas of olive green. It is now several years old with no loss of colour.

    1. Thank you, Trace, for thst – it is encourageing. Do you think the iron is a factor? I have dyed with Red Cabbage and iron in my Silk Roads series of shawls – was hoping for then mordanting effect of iron in that collection especially because it is wearabel art, not for the wall…

      Cheers and thanks so much for the info


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