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Fibres & Fabrics : The Cellulose Base

The natural fibres are vegetable, animal, or mineral in origin. Vegetable fibres, as the name implies, are derived from plants. The principal chemical component in plants is cellulose, and therefore they are also referred to as cellulosic fibres.

fibers, N. (2020). Natural Cellulose Fibers - natures own fibers - Textile School. [online] Textile School. Available at:

Cellulose Fabric

Fabrics such as cotton and linen have been partially scoured before we purchase the material. But I usually boil around 30 minutes with a neutral detergent to remove all sizing or starches which may react with the dye. The fabric is then thoroughly rinsed and is ready for dyeing. If the cloth is for batik or any other surface decoration, drying and ironing will follow.

The cellulose base fabric and yarn as listed below:


Cellulose yarn or fibres

The yarns often contain waxes or pectins which are more difficult to remove, because the tough fibres are not easy to penetrate. It's best to give them a boil for at least one hour but best to do it two hours, depending on the strength of the fibre, in hot water adding washing soda and detergent to the pot. How much soda and detergent? it depends on the weight of the fabric which there's a term of it- WOF ( weight of fabric)

I usually use 1/4 of detergent/soda to every each of WOF. Leave the fibre until the water is cold and then it's ready for mordanting or dye.

I had a couple of fail processes because of not knowing the ratio and amount of detergent to scour the fabric. The temperature of water really plays an important role, especially when dealing with a big piece of fabric. In Malaysia, most of the tap water contains iron and the pH level is usually acid compared to UK where it's more alkaline. I notice there's a lot of white flakes in the boiling pot indicating that there's calcium carbonate in the water. The water pH is another aspect for you to consider especially you are planning with dye that are very sensitive to pH. For example, logwood and madder.

That is why dyeing process for cellulose base usually takes a long time to compare with animal/protein base fibre. The most crucial part is scouring and making sure the material you plan to dye is clean and ready to be dye and bind with a mordanting agent. If you skip this process, you will find your dye fabric will become uneven and the shade will eventually fade faster than usual. Also, you will notice your fabric will shrink at least 5-10% from the normal length. I had such a valuable experience when I received a commission job from a local restaurant asking me to make 300 pieces of tea towel/table towel. I cut them into 50x50cm and noticed that they shrink and became 40x40cm after dye. So, the best thing to do is to cut a small piece and use it as a test sample before proceeding with the entire process.

All the hard, sweat and stained fingernails are paid off after seeing the natural dye sits very well on your fabric. From that moment, I started to appreciate more my fabric material and handle them carefully. Each material like i said before, has their own characteristic. If we treat them well, they will definitely response in better way. So be kind to things around us.

Slow process although it is slow, but it does help me to learn and understand my

process better. I learn to forage responsibly, think before making a purchase, handle all of my fabric material with care. By sharing all this info, I hope you can learn something and start appreciate our fabric and clothes.

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