Friday, July 17, 2009

Dyeing in the heat

One thing that summer in the southeast is really good for – dyeing!  all that free heat and humidity!  Also, I’ve not had a chance to dye in 2-3 years because of the drought – every drop of water has been carefully used..but now, (though us sceptics are being what we are!) the drought is pronounced at an end.  Its dying has led to me dyeing!

As a consequence of not getting the dye gloves on for 2-3 years, I had some old dye concentrate brooding at the back of the little dorm fridge I keep in the dye studio….hating waste and liking experimentation, I thought I’d use it up on some dye painting – I used it fairly extravagantly but was gratified to see it still works at 2 or 3 years old!


As you can see it’s a weentsy bit pale, but if you want pale, why not use old dye?  at the top is an ‘07 mocha (a good year for mocha I might add!), then an ‘06 fuchsia (mellowed by 3 years in the barrel) and at the bottom a 2 year old turquoise.  These are MX dyes.  I generally mix in a 5Tdye+3Turea+16oz H2O concentrate though occasionally stepping it up for screen printing.  I chuck that lot into a nobbly bottle in the fond hope that the extra turbulence caused by the nobbles will aid mixing!  When in doubt, use your nobbles!

More and more I like to use dye painted fabric in my quilts, and got a several nice lengths: that’s still that well-aged fuchsia, by the way.    IMG_1619 IMG_1618
Then I got carried away, mixed up some fresh dye and over the next few days produced several nice pieces of shibori – I’m going to be teaching a workshop at QBL on the 26th and will take these with me in case someone is interested in buying – I’m not sure how much to ask for them though, so if anyone has an idea – please comment.  They’re 1/3 yd, a very high thread count quality cotton: Testfabric 419.  I like the high thread count because you get nice crisp lines and less fraying.

IMG_1626 IMG_1621  IMG_1623IMG_1624IMG_1625  IMG_1627IMG_1620 IMG_1622 

Talking about dyeing, I thoroughly recommend buying the dyes from Prochem(east coast) or Dharma (west coast) and following their excellent instructions!   You don’t need a cookbook and the dye companies know better than anyone how to achieve the best results. Also Pauline Burch has a huge amount of very good information on her website.  Beyond those 3 sites if you have any questions, I suggest you devise your own experiments! you’ve nothing to lose!  So when I first wondered about how long I could keep dye concentrate, I used it fresh, 1 day old, 1 week old, 1 month old and 3 months old – on the same fabric and made myself a poster of the results.  And yes, it loses strength but very very slowly….and of course some colours weaken faster than others.  For dyes are not all the same chemical coloured in different ways!! They’re all different chemicals with different ways of behaving!!  
When I wanted to use less salt (we’re on a septic tank and I wasn’t happy about pounds of salt going into the tank or the garden) I did an experiment with three colours on the same fabric with and without salt.  Made a poster.    Then I could see that salt evens out the colour (less of a mottled look). 
I also tried experimenting with wet versus dry fabric in  low water immersion dyeing – made no appreciable difference.  Prewetting does make a difference however if you want to compress the fabric, especially if you are compressing to resist dye. (as in shibori).

So if you have a question that’s not on any of those website – set up your own experiment!  Remember to always have a control so you can tell if there’s a different between with/without whatever action, substance or condition you’re assessing.

And now I must make something delicious using shibori!!  Feel free to comment – I love comments!  And if there are questions that set me to cogitation, all the better!  If you have been, thanks for reading!



Vicki W said...

Your shibori is beautiful! I agree completely with your advice about testing. There are so many variables with dyeing that no two people can get the same results in different environments. Glad to hear that the old dyes worked. I find that most of my colors last except for yellow. It tends to completely expire on me in a month - and I keep them in a fridge too!

Anita Heady Fiber Arts, LLC said...

I very much enjoy your blog and was happy to see one on dyeing today. I also dye fabric and offer it for sale. Because you have much more experience than I, $16 - $20 per yard is not unusual, and shibori fabrics (because of the work involved) would sell for more of course. My older dyes seem to lack the depth that fresh dyes give. Do you find that to be true?

Linda B. said...

You love comments - I love your shibori dyes! It is a version of ploe wrapping that produces the lovely watery effect?

Elizabeth Barton said...

Yes, it's called arashi shibori - wrapping the fabric tightly around a pole. Elizabeth

Linda Cline said...

I am a casual dyer. Last time I dyed, I got the most wonderful pale subtle cloth, while the rest were very bright. I have no idea how I did it, and most likely couldn't reproduce it. Maybe I got some soda ash in the dye before I used it? I've just used a piece of it. It's paleness made the most wonderful background to contrast with the darker brighter foreground fabrics.

Priscilla Kibbee said...

I am in your class at QBL in week 2 and would like to purchase the mostly turquoise piece (2nd from left in the group). Thanks. Priscilla Kibbee

Clare Wassermann said...

Beautiful strong colours - almost mouthwatering!

Deb Lacativa said...

Next time you feel a dye-fest coming on, give me a holler and I'll drag my bottles of concentrate and bags of old tablecloths on up to your studio. I 'bout heatstroked meself working out on the sunny deck last weekend.