Wednesday, 9 October 2013

How to: 7 steps to easy fabric dyeing

Tray of fabric dyeing
I’ve been having lots of fun dyeing fabric over the last week.  I don’t tend to follow ‘proper’ recipes and enjoy just messing around to see what effects I can get.  Here’s what I’ve been doing.

1.  Firstly, I’ve soaked the ‘prepared for dye’ fabric in a bucket of soda ash solution.  For fabric, I’ve actually been using pure cotton sheets from Asda.  They dye nicely and are cost effective, but I have had problems cutting them neatly afterwards (this may well be me rather than the sheet...). 
Bottles of dyes ready to be used
2.  In plastic drinks bottles, I’ve mixed the dye with water. I use Procion Cold Water dyes as no fancy equipment or heat is required.  I’ve been using a good teaspoon to almost 500ml (a pint) of water.  This bit I do in the sink with a mask on.  The powder is very fine and will stain and supposedly is carcinogenic (but most things are if you read the papers and I’m not sure how bad a substance this is, but I try not to take too many risks).

3.  The soaked fabric is then wrung out a bit and placed in a container.  I’ve been using bowls, Tupperware, cups and solid zip-lock bags.  If you want flat perfect colour, you probably need to read different instructions, but basically, the fabric needs to be able to float around, not be scrunched up and I would add the dye before the fabric.  For multi-coloured fun, I put the fabric tightly in the container and scrunch it up.
Fabric dyeing in paper cups (they leak!)
4.  Squirt the dye over the fabric.  Remember the effects of colour mixing, so don’t place complementary colours on top of each other unless you want brown.  Make sure you use a lot of dye and that it is soaking down.
Fabric dyeing in zip-lock bags
5.  After an hour or so, I top up the containers with water with some salt added to help the fixing process.  Where possible I leave the fabric overnight.

Washing out the fabric
6.  The next day, I rinse out the fabric in the sink and then bung in the washing machine with lots of colour catchers and do a light wash to get rid of any excess dye.
Using the leftover dye for a paler shade
7.  I then tend to add more fabric to the leftover dye to get paler shades of what I have already made, which can be quite useful.
Fabric hanging on the rack to dry.  Really I should have started dyeing in summer, not October
One proud six year old showing off her fabric
 Now I have lots of fabric, although my daughter has got in on the act and is secreting away the pieces she thinks are hers for her own stash, so I don’t have quite as much as I thought!
Some of the finished fabric, beautifully ironed
The big question is what to do with all this fabric?  I will be using some in my art based work shortly, but at the moment, I’m just enjoying playing around with it and making a simple quilt.  These are some of the pieces cut ready for action.
Fabric cut ready for use
Dyeing can be a science and very accurate, but I prefer a looser approach and just seeing what happens.  If I want to use plain fabric, I can buy it, whereas this stuff is more fun.



Margaret said...

Great fun, eh? I like to dye in zip-lock bags so I can see what's inside. I've tended to use a sink to wash rather than my machine (afraid of dye residue) but perhaps I'll give it a try next time out. Love your results!

Frieda Oxenham said...

Oh the joy of discovering all those wonderful happy accidents. This is definitely my sort of dying too although sadly difficult with the septic tank.

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