29 Aug

Dye Day Redux

Summer, and the last week in particular, has been kicking my butt. I’m both exhausted and feel like I’m getting nothing done at the same time. I know, I know; hire a nanny and lock myself in my “office.” Perhaps I’m avoiding that solution because it defeats the purpose of doing art purely because I love it and not for ulterior motives. However, my goals and how to reach them are the subject of another post when my head is more clear.

The weather has been nice and between trips to the pool and the park and various friends’ houses I did accomplish some dyeing.

Thanks to everyone’s helpful suggestions, this effort was a greater success.

• The orange on the left started life as a white cotton damask duvet cover. I dumped 500 grams salt in a bucket of warm water (approx. 6 liters) and added a dye solution of about 3 Tablespoons Procion powder to two cups warm water and two drops dishwashing liquid. After about 20 minutes I added soda ash dissolved in water (about a quarter of a solution of 200 grams soda ash to 1 gallon water). I let the whole bucket with fabric sit all afternoon and then all night and rinsed and washed in the morning. I’m very happy with the results and the fabric has derailed three other projects so that I can work with it.

• The pile in the upper left corner was made with Ann Johnston’s parfait method via one of my helpful commenters (sorry I forgot who suggested I try it). My choice of colors was a bit lame, based on the solids I was aiming for. I think I had orange on the bottom, then brown and then either green or purple, depending on which of the two jars I was working with. The brown is pretty washed out, presumably from a combination of being a weaker dye solution, and because I ran out of room in the jar for the last dousing of soda ash solution. The parfaits were batched five hours.

• The pole wrapped shibori-style brown/burgundy in the upper center is the washed out green shibori from the previous attempt, now wrapped on a big piece of (clean) sewage pipe. I added a very strong dye solution (I kept adding other powders to get a stronger brown as my dye is the red-brown, and I wanted a chocolate brown) to the strong salt water solution, plopped in the fabric, added soda ash solution a while later and let the whole thing sit overnight. I was worried that the combination of batching overnight and the strong dye would completely overwhelm any patterning, but the shibori pattern survived.

• The brown and blue piece on the right was also dyed with the pole wrapped fabric. It started out as a washed out “forest” on a white damask duvet cover from my previous dye day. I tied marbles in a swoosh and let the nice sky blue area hang out of the bucket. I’m pleased that the tied areas remained blue, but the intensity of the brown dye and long batching obliterated any other scrunchy patterning or underlying color from previous dyeing. Regardless, the colors go nicely with an in-progress project and may change the direction said project was moving.

• The big(ish) pile in the center is all the other bits and bobs  I threw in the dye pots. The green on top is the top of a parfait, clamped with clothes pins (I was inspired by my kids’ work). Below it is a fabulous green that was white PFD fabric tossed in a bucket with dye solution and soda ash solution. I threw in some salt just to see what happened. Later, I moved a linen tablecloth from the orange dye bath to the green one and sloshed on more soda ash solution. It pleases me that the orange did not transfer to the first green piece, and yet does show through a bit on the table cloth. I can always work with variations on green. At the bottom of the pile are a light blue cotton tablecloth and a light blue patterned sheet that were soaked in a soda ash solution, then had a purple-ish dye solution added. No salt. Batched four to five hours. I think the colors turned out quite intense. (Now that I look again at the photo, I think that you can’t see the purple, just more of the burgundy/brown.

My very unscientific discoveries are:

• I need to make stronger dye solutions. 2 1/2 or more Tablepsoons of dye powder to 2 cups water makes a good starting point.

• I need to batch about five hours. I don’t think that overnight added much to the process, especially since the instructions at Dharmatrading.com say that heat has a lot to do with the workings of the dye.  I suspect my previous one to two hours was just on the edge of acceptable, four to five hours on a sunny day worked quite well, and that a cool overnight sit is inconsequential.

• A few drops of dishwashing liquid appear to help the dye powder dissolve. I had NO flecks from the brown and black dyes, and that had been a problem previously.

• Salt may or may not play a part in the dyeing process, but soda ash is essential. Maybe more soda ash is a good thing too (I used more this dye day than on the last one), but it’s hard to say if the darker, more intense colors are from more soda ash, or more dye powder. I suspect more dye powder.

8 thoughts on “Dye Day Redux

  1. wow! i can see many tree trunks on the one fabric and a water reflexion in the other… i’m in awe, again!
    and i really love the colors you chose – the bright green’s a fave, and do i see a hint of pink in the background?
    can’t wait to see what you create from it…

  2. Success! Isn’t dyeing fabric fun? FYI, I use 9+ heaping tablespoons of soda ash per gallon if water. When dyeing on a coolish day, I will zap the container with cloth in the microwave for about 30 seconds and then let it sit. I love the color combos you chose. Cheers.

  3. Yummy – especially the shibori and the blue and brown piece. Oh, heck, I love it all. What is not to love about any hand-dyed fabric.

  4. Kristin: I too am coming to the end of a “European summer” (?) of dyework. Years of working in our unique climate (unreliable spells of warm-enough and humidity that frightens the urea granules, to say nothing of strange water inclusions) have taught me some things that don’t apply in other places. I share with you that we need our own set of batching rules and even some Rube Goldberg assistance. While most of the dye-reacting takes place in the first hours, here, it does make a difference to go the full 24 hours (or at least overnight). Always batch in black plastic garbage bags in the warmest place you can find (your car sitting in the sun, chasing the sunny spots on your terrace until dark and then finding the warmest place inside to finish the job…). LWI, I do sometimes batch in the microwave in the dye studio, but often that’s just not a big enough place. If you are going to be doing dyeing regularly, invest in some sort of “incubator”: Dedicated electric blanket to shroud your batch-pots; a friend tells me that there exist special electric seed-sprouting blankets–I haven’t found one yet in Europe; my solution is a DeLonghi closed-oil-system electric space heater (from the PX) over which my husband, Jim the unhandy, built a Brico wood shelf, leaving out the bottom two (of 5) shelves. The space heater fits under the top three shelves, which are lined with black plastic. I shroud the whole ungainly thing in old sheets to contain the heat. It gets real toasty in there and I leave it on a few hours, turn it off and leave it overnight. Warning–brace the shelf contraption–my entire incubator listed to the right and fell during my first dye session this year when I overloaded it with buckets full of old dye concentrates to use up the 1 and 2 yr old stuff. Amazingly, it just listed and pancaked and the buckets slopped, but did not spill.

    My incubator is not pretty, but it does what I ask it. In the past, I’ve used it to supplement sunny days. This year, I have had to press it into fulltime service because most days haven’t been out of the low 20s at best. I’m getting full color-reactivity and very little rinse-off (my rinsing is a whole nother system developed for conditions of here). And another, not completely solved yet, riddle of living & dyeing where I do is the urea situation, which has been a real trial this summer–my third (and most intense) summer of exploring DSP (deconstructed screenprinting). But this is way too long already for somebody who never posts to blogs. (oh, PS, dye concentrates per Ann Johnston’s book, the holy grail of LWI, need to be 2 Tablespoons per cup–your 2-1/2 per 2 cups is still somewhat dilute).

  5. Your experiments look great — and more temptation to play with dying my own fabrics…will the ideas never stop?!? (and no, I don’t really want them to, just enough time to catch up to them!)

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