Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dyeing cotton, linen and silk

From time to time I am asked about dyeing fabric. For those enquiring minds, here's what I have to say on the subject. There are many excellent books on the market that cover dyeing, over-dyeing and dye-painting. You may want to pick one up for more detailed recipes, colour formulas and a comprehensive look at working with dyes. This is the method that I use and it has been working for me for a number of years whether I am dyeing cotton, silk or linen. Right! This recipe works perfectly well on linen as well as silk, that includes the lightest of handkerchief linens to silk noil and silk's boundless other constructions. In fact, I prefer the Procion MX to the Procion H which many people use on silk, because the MX doesn't require a steam process. A note on silk Dupioni and some other silks, there is a slight change in hand and some of the lustre is lost in the process. You may want to do a small sample test run first, or perhaps not! Have fun!

For each ½ metre or yard, you will need:

Pre-washed fabric cut into 1/2 metre pieces
3 teaspoons of Procion MX dyes (less for lighter colour)
2 tablespoons of soda ash (sodium carbonate) Note: this is not baking soda
1 tablespoon of common salt (non-iodized)
Hot water
1.5 litre container (about a 3 pint ice cream or yogurt container)
1.5 litre baggie (optional)
Synthrapol
Rubber gloves

Pre-wash the fabric to remove any dirt, sizing or oils. Wash in hot water with 1 tsp. of Synthrapol and rinse well.

Generally speaking I use about 3 teaspoons of dye powder to ¾ litre of liquid. You can increase or decrease dye powder according to the colour value that you are looking for.

Measure the dye powder into the container. Add a small amount of hot tap water to dissolve, and then fill to about half full with more hot water. Add soda ash and stir until dissolved. Add salt and make sure it dissolves. Add wet fabric, making sure that it is totally saturated. You can leave in the container, or transfer it to a baggie for it to cure. Check it from time to time to make sure it is still submerged. Remove from the dye solution after a minimum of 3 hours. If it is turquoise or contains turquoise, I recommend leaving it overnight. This used dye stuff cannot be re-used. Rinse in cold water until it runs clear.

Didn’t wear gloves? Try some Reduran hand cleaner!

Stay tuned next time for painting with dyes!