Griffin Dyeworks & Fiber Arts

Understanding Mordants and Modifiers

Cream of Tartar


Description: Alkali modifier, crystalline opaque white powder with 7-8 pH; crude potassium salt of bitartrate from grape skins after wine-pressing, officially discovered by the apothocary Seignetter of Rochelle; actually in use far earlier.
Other Names: Potassium acid tartrate, potassium bitartrate, potassium borotartrate, potassium sodium tartrate, potassium tartarate Rochelle salt, soluble tartar, tartar; [Ancient]: argal, argil, argol, wine-stone, [L] faecula, faecla, [It] cremor tartari
Dye Use: Mild alkali, softens fibers when harsh mordants are used, helps prevent fading, brightens colors, blocks dye absorption in cellulose fibers. Used as an acid resist in commercially printed cloth where non-volatile acid is required.
Best On: Wool, silk
Dye Recipe: 1-4 tbsp after 30 min simmer in mordant. Less can be used. Always add tartar after simmering fiber in mordant pot or dyepot for 1 hour.
Safety: Non-toxic but don't ingest large amounts or inhale powder
Disposal: Pour down sink
Alternative: Tartaric acid
Source: Griffin Dyeworks

CODES: c = cup; gal = gallon; lb = pound (weight); tbsp = Tablespoon; tsp = teaspoon / [AF] Anglo-French; [Ar] Arabic; [AS] Anglo-Saxon; [Dan] Danish; [Du] Dutch; [Fr] French; [Ger] German; [Gk] Greek; [It] Italian; [L] Classical Latin; [LL] Late Latin; [ME] Middle English; [ML] Modern Latin; [OE] Old English; [OF] Old French; [ON] Old Norse; [OS] Old Saxon; [Port] Portuguese; [Sp] Spanish; [Sw] Swedish / CE = Common Era; BCE = Before Common Era

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