Alcohol is alcohol, right?

At the end of my last dye class in Avacal last month, there was a small group of us who kept chattering about this and that and the other, as one does after class. One of the things we got chatting about, was extracting dye from woods using alcohol. By and large, most of us just use isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) because it’s cheap and easy to get, but then there was a general musing on if ethanol (booze!) would give different results.

Well! I had a bottle of vodka I was willing to put to the cause, and some padauk wood shavings that I knew from experience required an alcohol soak to get dye out of.

I didn’t plan to do giant samples, so each jar only held 5 g of wood shavings, and then 135g of their respective alcohols. Vodka (45%) in one, and Isopropyl in the other (99%, yes that’s a higher concentration than normal rubbing alcohol, welcome to my house.) I left them both to sit for a couple of weeks, giving them a shake when I thought of it.

My silk was mordanted with alum at 15% wof (wof is weight of fibre.. so you take your dry fibre and weigh it, and then use 15% of that number.. alum is usually anywhere from 10- 25% wof). I had both silk cloth and skeins of silk thread in there, and everything got mordanted at once.

A paper towel dip gave a clue.

The isopropyl went first. I strained out the wood shavings, put the dye liquor into the crockpot, diluted with water and then in went a chunk of cloth, and a couple of skeins of silk. Holy pink, batman! They hung out there at a gentle warm for a couple of hours before being let cool in the dyebath and then out and rinsed. I then did exactly the same thing with the ethanol.

They are most decidedly different. There’s not any doubt at all that they extract dye differently, and dammit, I now can’t just use the cheap alcohol if I want to extract a dye I like better! A good experiment, a few more colours of silk into my stash. I wish I’d stirred more to get it more even on the cloth, but life does go on. I’m hoping to hide the worst of the splotches under embroidery.

So there we have it.. who knew that different chemicals would have different results. (spoilers.. everyone should have known, but now we have proof!)

One thought on “Alcohol is alcohol, right?

  1. Pingback: Padauk experiment redux | Adventures in Arts & Sciences

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