Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday Project - Fabric Dyeing

One of my favorite ways of designing clothing or fabric is to start with a white piece, dye it and start layering - stamping, stenciling, and embroidery.  Over the next four Mondays, I'll take you through the steps and show you some of the pieces I've made.

We start with a white piece of clothing or cut of fabric made from a natural fiber, especially plant fibers - cotton, rayon (rayon is made of cellulose, usually from wood pulp), hemp, bamboo.  That's because we're using Procion fiber reactive dyes with soda ash as a dye fixer and it works really well on these fabrics.  Yes, wool is a natural fabric and I'm told you can dye it with Procion, but the high level of pH we get to will damage the wool.  There are easy ways to dye wool - we'll try those out later!  And while I do sometimes use Procion on silk, the soda ash can be rough on it.  Man made fibers such as polyester and nylon are tough to dye.  There are options that will work on some types, but Procion is not one of them.  iDye is available at some arts/crafts stores and supposedly works, however, I'm not a big fan of polyester and haven't tried it.

One exception to the 100% natural fiber rule are knits with up to 5% spandex or lycra.  This doesn't seem to be enough to make a difference in the dying.  Below is a cut of 95% rayon/5% spandex jersey (your left) next to a 100% cotton T, both dyed with the same color at the same time.

Materials List:
* white 100% natural fiber clothing or cloth - if you don't want the thread on the clothing to stay white, get clothing with cotton thread, often labeled PFD (prepared for dye)
* Procion fiber reactive dye
* soda ash (sodium carbonate - pH plus from the pool store works)
*non-iodized granulated salt
* tub and measuring utensils that will NOT be used for food
* heavy rubber gloves
*dust/respiratory mask
*disposable cups
*stirring sticks (chopsticks work well)
*old towels or paper towels
I see I put a funnel in the photo - ??  Who knows why!  You won't need this today!

There are several online companies that sell white cotton clothing (blanks) and dye materials.  I order from Dharma Trading Company.

1.  Wash your clothing.  If you are dying cuts of fabric, run these through the dryer to get any shrinking they're thinking about doing out of the way.

2.  Get a rough estimate of the weight of everything you'll be dying.  Don't freak over being exact - just in the general ballpark.

3.  For 1/2 pound to one pound of fabric, you will need:
  - 3 gallons of warm water
  - 3 cups non-iodized salt (2 times this for blacks)
  - 1 Tablespoon Procion powdered dye for most dyes
     Look at the chart on the site you order your dyes from.  If there is a * next to it, you need 2 Tablespoons.
     If there are ** next to it, you need 4 Tablespoons.
  - 1/3 cup soda ash

If you are dying up to a 1/2 pound, cut everything in half.  If you are dying more than a pound, multiply this by the number of pounds you have.  I try to stay with a pound tops - it all fits in a tub and is easier to manipulate.

4.  Measure the water into a tub.  Measure the salt and add to the tub of water.  Stir to dissolve all the salt. 

5.  Make a paste with the dye and a small amount of warm water in a disposable cup (wear your mask while doing this).  Stir until all dye is dissolved and add to the tub of water.  Stir to make sure all the dye is evenly mixed into the water.  Undissolved dye will leave dots of colors on your fabric - not the colors you want, either.  Every once in awhile, you'll run into a dye that has a residue that just will not dissolve.  You can put a piece of pantyhose over the cup as you pour the dye into the water to keep it out.

6.  Add your fabric to the tub and stir for 20 minutes.  Some people would rather stir the fabric around with a stick.  I put my gloves on and stir/agitate it around with my hands.

7.  Mix the soda ash with warm water and stir until dissolved (wear your mask while measuring the soda ash).  If any clumps of undissolved soda ash make it into your dye bath, they tend to leave spots on the fabric, so be careful.  While holding your fabric up or to one side, add the soda water to your dye bath a little at a time over 15 minutes.  I keep agitating with my hands during this time.  Sometimes your color will change when you add the soda - don't worry, it'll all work out by the end.

8.  Let the fabric soak in the dye bath, stirring frequently.  Thirty minutes is good for light to medium hued fabrics, an hour for really dark fabrics.

9.  Rinse out the excess dye - I promise you this won't be as bad as it was with tie dye!  Wash in the machine with an extra rinse.  I usually use Synthrapol or Dharma's Professional Detergent instead of regular soap - always with reds and turquoise.

My shirts look great to wear as they are, but next week we'll begin learning different ways to print, stencil, and otherwise embellish them.

Happy Creating!  Deborah

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