Housewives who wish to do successful home dyeing should therefore not purchase dyes indiscriminately, but should select the kind best suited to the material, because the coloring principle which will remake a silk waist may utterly ruin a woolen skirt or a linen suit. Powders designed for special purposes may be purchased from druggists.
228. Indirect Dyeing. We have seen that it is practically impossible to color cotton and linen in a simple manner with any degree of permanency, because of the lack of chemical action between vegetable fibers and coloring matter. But the varied uses to which dyed articles are put make fastness of color absolutely necessary. A shirt, for example, must not be discolored by perspiration, nor a waist faded by washing, nor a carpet dulled by sweeping with a dampened broom. In order to insure permanency of dyes, an indirect method was originated which consisted of adding to the fibers a chemical capable of acting upon the dye and forming with it a colored compound insoluble in water, and hence “safe.” For example, cotton material dyed directly in logwood solution has almost no value, but if it is soaked in a solution of oxalic acid and alum until it becomes saturated with the chemicals, and is then transferred to a logwood bath, the color acquired is fast and beautiful.
This method of indirect dyeing is known as the mordanting process; it consists of saturating the fabric to be dyed with chemicals which will unite with the coloring matter to form compounds unaffected by water. The chemicals are called mordants.
229. How Variety of Color is Secured. The color which is fixed on the fabric as a result of chemical action between mordant and dye is frequently very different from that of the dye itself. Logwood dye when used alone produces a reddish brown color of no value either for beauty or permanence; but if the fabric to be dyed is first mordanted with a solution of alum and oxalic acid and is then immersed in a logwood bath, it acquires a beautiful blue color.
Moreover, since the color acquired depends upon the mordant as well as upon the dye, it is often possible to obtain a wide range of colors by varying the mordant used, the dye remaining the same. For example, with alum and oxalic acid as a mordant and logwood as a dye, blue is obtained; but with a mordant of ferric sulphate and a dye of logwood, blacks and grays result. Fabrics immersed directly in alizarin acquire a reddish yellow tint; when, however, they are mordanted with certain aluminium compounds they acquire a brilliant Turkey red, when mordanted with chromium compounds, a maroon, and when mordanted with iron compounds, the various shades of purple, lilac, and violet result.