Dyes love the temperature above 70 degrees and here in Georgia they’re having a ball with mid to high 90s almost every day now. So I’m alternating between agonizing over climate change and rejoicing in the reactivity of dye particles with fiber!
I posted before about RTS – reducing the stash…and since I’ve just returned from helping my daughter cull her shoe/boot collection by 50%…I’m in the “out, out out damned spot!” mode and even more determined to get rid of some of this stale, safe fabric that’s been languishing in my fabric collection and make some new bright inspiring saturated rich cloth.
My favorite substrates are Testfabrics 419 and an Ultra Sateen cotton produced by Kaufmann. I’d be very interested, though, to hear of other fabrics that you have found to work really well. I know a lot of people like prima cotton, but I’ve never had a really good source for it, and I’ve heard that Kaufman (at least) is not going to be producing any more.
The Testfabric 419 is a densely woven bleached mercerized cotton that gives very crisp results with any kind of manipulation – whether it be painting, screen printing, stitch resist, clamping or tyeing. The higher thread count does mean that handsewing is pretty much out but it does result in very rich bold dyed marks and images.
The Ultra Sateen, being a twill weave (ie. diagonal, rather then straight up/down), yields a softer, more blurred result with surface design, but in immersion dyeing gives beautiful glowing colours.
Like most people, I’ve found the MX fiber reactive dyes to be the easiest to use. They work at reasonable temperatures (between 90 and 110 F for the most part) requiring no additional steaming or heating. They store well refrigerated in solution – I have used them upto 3 years old. Now there is definitely some loss of colour in 3 years, and I don’t recommend keeping them that long, but if life gets in the way and you happen to do that – as long as they’ve been kept cold, they will work.
I mix them in the simplest way possible: first I dissolve some urea in a little hot water in a jar. Then I put that jar in the glove box* (this prevents both me and the atmosphere around me being exposed to floating dye particles) with a small jug of water, a container with water for the mixing spoon, a spray bottle of water, and the jar of dye powder plus a clean, dry tablespoon measure. Close the lid, hands in the gloves, add the required amount of powder to the urea solution, dirty tablespoon into the container, spray around with the waterspray to dissolve any spills, water added to the jar with the dye. Lid on. Shake ++. Spray around again. and that’s it! I do then usually decant the mixture into a 16 oz bottle, adding more water to fill about 15 oz – leaving a little shaking room!
Of course the minute you’re trapped in the glove box, the phone always rings!! and your nose itches, and the music you put on reaches the end, or worse, gets hung up! but all this just proves how needed you are!
I love to mix up a bunch of bottles, and then have at it with low water immersion, dye painting, screen printing and shibori without worrying about whether I have enough dye. I always have a big pile of fabric to be overdyed waiting too. While I rarely “dye to order”, I do have a kind of shopping list in the sewing room with “make more stripes” or “gradation dye lavender to purple” etc
So I hope your summer is going dyeingly well…and for those readers on the opposite end of the world…well…look forward to all that dyeing fun in 6 months when the thermometer gets into 3 digits! oh good! it’s going to be 100 blissful dyeing degrees today!
if you have been, thanks for reading! Elizabeth
*a friend and I made our own glove boxes from acrylic sheet designing one loosely based on the lab boxes we found on line and No! I do not use an old incubator from which I tossed out the unwanted baby! (as one online rumour was reported to me!!)