Want to meet an expert at natural dyeing, Kong Tmung, who Muezart works with?
She told us that only in Meghalaya they use natural mordants. We decided to dive in deeper to find out more by asking her questions. Read on to know more.
Kong Tmung is one among Seven and grew up in Diwon village. Her father worked in the Forest Depart and her Mom is a weaver and still is till today. Kong Tmung learned Spinning, Weaving and Dyeing since the aged of 10 from her Mother and Grandmother.
And guess what?
Kong Tmung’s son Batiplem is now taking up natural dyeing and has set up his own unit. We might be working with him too in the coming months.
Kong Tmung was ready to answer all our questions and she shared some insights. We bring that interview to you.
Kong Tmung, you had told Miranda (a member of the Muezart team) that only in Meghalaya they use natural mordants. Can you please tell us a little more about this?
What is a Mordant?
Mordants is an additive used in dyeing which helps the color get absorbed better and makes it long lasting.
Using natural mordant to bind colors has been taught to us by our grandmothers and mothers. I am from a village and I don’t know and have not seen what a chemical dye is. I didn’t even know that chemical dye exists. So, whenever we dye Eri silk yarn we dye it using natural ingredients – even the mordants.
How do we know for sure that only Meghalaya uses natural ingredients to fix colors?
A few years back in 2014, some members of GIZ came to Meghalaya and gave us training on how to extract more colors from different plants and taught us how to measure the PH of the water for dyeing. They were amazed to know that we use some barks and leaves as a mordant.
That’s how I got to know that using natural mordant is unique to our region.
How long have you been using natural dyes?
I first learned about natural dyeing when I was 10 years old before that I’ve seen my mom and grandma dye their yarns to make shawls and helped them too. I would say I have been working with natural dyes for the past 43 years.
Do you dye only Eri silk? Or any other fabric too?
I only dye with Eri silk.
Which is the best fiber to dye – wool, silk, cotton? Which material ‘catches’ the colour well?
I have never dyed with other materials so I can’t say which material catches the color well.
Do you always use natural ingredients to fix the color (as mordant) when you dye Eri Silk?
Can you name the plants you use for fixing colors?
Sla Sohkhu (Baccaurea Ramiflora Lour)
Sla Sohtung (Terminalia chebula Retz)
I use Dieng Rnong, Sla Sohkhu (Baccaurea Ramiflora Lour) and Sla Sohtung (Terminalia chebula Retz)
Have you tried natural dyeing without using a mordant? If yes, what happens?
The colors will fade in the first few washes without the mordant. So, I suggest you always treat the fiber with a mordant before dyeing.
Even after using a mordant, color can run, is it not? Is there a way we can ensure color does not run?
Yes, you’re right. The colors do bleed after few washes, even after mordanting but not all colors bleed. In my experience in natural dyeing Turmeric is the color that bleeds out even after mordanting.
So, what I usually do is after I dye the colors be it any colors I wash the yarns or fibres to validate and check the color fastness. If one particular color bleeds out, then I re-dye the color again.
Who taught you this skill – of dyeing using natural dyes and using natural material as mordant, for fixing colors?
My grand mom and my mom taught me. And I also went for many trainings exchange programmed outside the state on natural dyeing. I have attended a workshop as well with GIZ.
Are there many people in Meghalaya who know this skill?
There are few people in Meghalaya especially Ri Bhoi who know about Natural dyeing.
Many, including the Government department of Sericulture approach me to conduct workshops and training!
How did you identify fugitive dyes?
I experiment with many plant ingredients and identify plants that produce colors and experimenting with colorfastness takes quite a lot of time.
Iron water and a plant mordant (Sla Sohtung) always help me in my process of both Cold dyeing and Hot dyeing to identify if the plant can produce color or not.
How do you make sure that the yarns are not damaged?
When dyeing, you need to check and maintain the heat. Too much heat will make the yarn brittle.
And if you have too much twist in your yarn when spinning, soaking the yarn in hot water will untwist the yarn.
Hope you found this post informative. Do you have a question for Kong Tmung? Please reach out to us.
Kong Tmung is an expert at dyeing with Lac and here are some of the yarn dyed in lac by her.
Check them out for yourself. You can download a booklet on natural dyeing here.