Sunday, March 30, 2008

Documenting dye samples

My issue with dyeing is that I can't predict the color ahead of time. No matter how much I try to follow the directions I've found on the web, nothing comes out consistently the same. And that's annoying.

Recently, another dyer while demonstrating shibori dyeing showed us her dye samples. It was a large piece of fabric she "sacrificed" so that she could have a record of the dye colors at various dilutions. Suddenly, it clicked! That was what I needed!

I'm currently taking "Garment Design through Draping" class at West Valley College. Draping not only uses lots of muslin, it wastes a lot too. I have no problem with the idea of needing to sacrifice large pieces of muslin in order to get a beautiful end result; it's just that my heart can't bear to throw the large pieces away. So I've been stuffing the sizable pieces into my bag "for future use". I know, I need more crap like I need a hole in my head but there *has* to be a use for them. Right?

I pulled out 7 of the scraps for this dyeing documentation project. I may not be dyeing on cotton fabric all of the time, but it's far better than hoping the color on the bottle is accurate. And I found out some very interesting things!

For example, some of the colors will bleed out along the edges. Look at the raspberry - it is a very pretty red-purple in the center, but at the edges it turns blue. When shibori dyeing, that's a dye you'll want to use. The bright green had this absolutely lovely yellow bleed-out but it washed away - I'm not sure why but I'm quite disappointed.

Another interesting observation was how some dyes don't change their final color much even when diluted. That's good to know so you don't waste dye powder. The excess gets washed out.

I think I have 20+ colors of this Procion dye from
Dharma. I was only able to do 7 colors because I only brought 7 jars with me. Documenting all of the dyes is on my list of things to do. Warmer weather is fast approaching so I expect to be done soon.

So, exactly how did I do these samples?

First, the fabrics were soaked in 1/4c of soda ash to 2 cups of water. The fabric weighed 4 ounces. This is straight-off-the-bolt white cotton muslin; I did not pre-wash it. After soaking for 10 minutes, the fabric was dried on the handy-dandy clothesline that the previous owner left and I've now come to appreciate. (Note to self: get clothespins before the next trip up there.)

Next, the dyes were mixed. I started with 1/4 tsp of dye powder to 1/4 cup of warm water. The house has well water which is probably a tad hard. I only used warm water to facilitate the dilution. Subsequent additions of water were cold.

For each piece of fabric, I used a Sharpie and wrote the name of the color, it's number, and "1/4tsp + 1/4 c water increments". After the samples were made, I also wrote 1, 2, or 3 next to the spot for each color sample.

To apply the dyes, I poured a few drops onto the cloth and then used my finger to spread it out. Plastic gloves are a must. It would have been better to use a eye dropper if only for better control of the pouring as well as avoiding the drips along the lip of the jar.

After the first dilution is applied to the cloth, add another 1/4 c of water to all of the jars of dye. Repeat the sample application. And then do it again a third time. Be sure to keep track of which sample is which dilution - I lined them up in a row but also marked them with a sharpie.

Some of the dyes got a fourth dilution only because the jar would hold it. Note to self: make sure to use large jars - small jelly jars don't work for this.

Once the samples were done, I wrapped them up with plastic wrap and left them to cure overnight. In the morning I unwrapped them, rinsed them and tucked them away. I couldn't let them dry - we were leaving to go home. On the red wine sample, some of the blue bled onto the cloth during the transport home. It doesn't look like any of it penetrated the color sample though, so I won't redo it. Also, in the bottom corner of that one, we put a sample of what looks like a brownish eggplant color. As we were cleaning up, we dumped the teal, orange, and periwinkle dye water into one jar. We were going to pour it down the kitchen drain but it looked quite pretty so we took a sample and kept the bottle of liquid. It's waiting for my return to the house in the mountains.

It is worth noting that since this process keeps the soda ash away from the dye, the mixtures will stay quite useable for a few months. Cover them and keep them for future use.

One thing I might do differently next time is to do 2 sample sheets of the same color - one sheet would be dry and the other would be wet. I want to see if it affects the bleed-out.


fiberitis said...

How did your samples where you wrapped the fabric around the pipe come out? None of these right?

Kimberly said...

No, the shibori dyeing we attempted after doing the samples aren't documented here yet. I'll put them in the next post!

Katherine Regier said...

I enjoyed seeing your dye samples! And a great use for leftover fabric pieces! I would love to have the thickener recipe your teacher gave you.
I really should start documenting my dye experiments seriously. I am not very disciplined and it acts to my detriment.
I am hosting Carol Soderlund for her Color Mixing for Dyers I. Its an intensive 5 days of just making dye samples. I have been frustrated trying to dye the colors I see in my imagination, or duplicating the colors I have achieved. I know Carol's classes are great for teaching you a precise way to make colors. Maybe she can whip me into shape! I need 4 more people to make it a go by tomorrow. Wish me luck! Join us if you can!

Anonymous said...

Ditto the recommendation for Carol's class.

Have you joined the DyersList?

Also, Paula Burch's website is excellent:

The keys to reproducing color are:
- mixing your own dye by weight (get a scale that measures in grams). Use only single hue dyes (Paula's list here: ) is wonderful
- weighing your fabric/fiber & dye, so you can determine the depth of shade

welcome to the addictive world of dyeing fabric and fiber.