Monday, December 21, 2009

Overdyeing linen and silk

I have a number of pieces of linen and silk that are old and are colours that are no longer interesting to me. They are in desperate need of a face lift! I over-dye them if I know that whatever colour turns out will be better than what I have now. You really need to be prepared to take that risk. I aim to dye to a colour of equal or greater colour value. Changing navy blue into baby pink just isn’t going to happen! I don’t strip my fabric and don’t use bleach. I just add onto whatever the commercial dyer did previously, so you need to keep in mind what colour the base fabric is because it will play a role in the outcome. I usually hope for some kind of earthy colour since browns include all the primaries.

That said, after I launder the fabric I cut off a couple of small bits, say 1x1” squares for test runs. I measure out a few teaspoons of dye stuff, add some water and dunk my little swatch in to get an idea of the colour. This will give you a general impression of what you will get, but Like a great soup, I add a little of this and a little of that until I get a colour that suits my fancy. I try to remember to have realistic expectations and know that I can’t always get a silk purse out of a sow’s ear! Once I am satisfied, I follow my usual method of dyeing which I’ll repeat here…

For each ½ metre or yard, you will need:
Pre-washed fabric
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)
Rubber gloves

I use Procion MX dyes on silk. I like the results that they yield and I don't have to steam. I like the simplicity of it all!

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.

Note that I don't always submerge the fabric. See example here. You can get interesting results by laying your wet fabric out on a flat surface overtop a sheet of plastic or oversized bag. Then I pour the dye mixture overtop and let it spread over the fabric. Sometimes I use more than one colour. The intersection and melding of colours can create some exciting results, or not! When all of the fabric is saturated, I place plastic over top, to separate the layers of fabric as I roll them up. Make sure the air can't get at your treasure until it is time to reveal.


Anne Marie - Toronto said...

Looks pretty yummy to me!!!! I'd also like to play with snow dying this year. Have you ever done it? - Birds of a feather

magpie said...

My dear feathered friend, have you taken leave of your senses? It is all I can do to tolerate the insufferable Canadian winter! Play in that white stuff? No, no, no!!That would just be to much for this ol' bird!