Thursday, June 25, 2015

Dyeing to Experiment

Its only been a year and a half in the making, but I finally got my fabric dyeing mojo going!!  Yes, I declared my interest in learning fabric dyeing as part of the 2014 New Year's Resolutions, and while I made some progress in terms of gathering the supplies and reading a few books, I just never found the time or courage to give it a try.  But thanks to a friend's encouragement and company, we had a little Dyeing party earlier this week.  In preparation, we both finished watching Jane Dunnewold's "The Art of Cloth Dyeing" Craftsy class, purchased prepared for dye (PFD) fabric and did our fabric manipulations the day or two before.  While I had most of the dyes and fabrics needed, I did put in a final order with Dharma Trading Company for gloves, 2-3 primary color dyes, cleaner and pimatex cotton.  I was blown away by how well their website was laid out, all the great information/resources included and their exceptional customer service.  Their shipment emails were super cute and I was absolutely amazed to find the package had arrived the very next day, despite paying for ground shipping!  (Note:  Dharma Trading Company is located 2 hours north...but still very impressive that it arrived the very next day!)

Doug helped me set up several work benches to create an outdoor wet lab, so we did not have to worry about making a mess.  And because "safety is sexy" we both had our gloves, masks, aprons and dye removal scrub at the ready!  I was thankful to have a 2nd pair of gloves to swap out once the first pair got a bit damp inside--yuck, although they did their job as we never needed to resort to using any of the dye removal scrub!
Folded/tucked/clamped/scrunched/rubberbanded fabrics ready, gloves=best friend, outdoor wet lab for dye and dry
Once we set up our work stations, we whipped up several batches of dye stock using Jane's recipe (hot water, salt and soda ash), which we then added a teaspoon or less of fiber reactive procion dye powder.  At first, we started out slow and simple with some of the primary colors (magenta, turquoise and lemon yellow).  Once we got the hang of the process, we were soon mixing up our own recipes to create reddish orange, chartreuse and more!  In less than 2 hours, we had immersed our bundles of manipulated fabrics into one or more dyes and had even done the bulk of the clean up!  My friend came prepared with lots of ziploc baggies to seal everything up and then contain within another plastic bin for safe transport home.  

Now came the hard part...waiting for the fabrics to batch a minimum of 4 hours, but ideally a full 24 hours!!  I will admit that I did not make it the full 24 hours, as I woke up the next morning to find one of my baggies had sprung a leak.  Since it has been 20 hours, I figured it was ok to start rinsing that one bundle so it did not leak any more dye.  I may have started with good intentions, but I knew that it would be a slippery slope once the first bundle had been opened.  The supplies were already out--so what was the harm in opening up just one more bundle!?!  Well 7 bundles later, I finally stopped only because I had a morning appointment!!  It was like Christmas morning, as I unwrapped each package to reveal a new and wonderful surprise!!

I rushed home after my appointment and went to work in the hot weather rinsing the remaining 7 bundles (which had been batching for 24+ hours).    Rinsing took some time and elbow power--and I was still seeing some runoff despite changing out the water in each bin.  After I was dripping in sweat from the heat and changing out bins of water, I decided to switch to using the washing machines to wash a small batch of warm colors and another of cool colors.  After a cold and hot cycle for each, they were then combined for a final cold and hot wash cycle and then dried and pressed.  And now, for the final reveal of my first dye party...

WARNING:  lots of pictures to follow!!
Folded Fabrics (clockwise):  pleated in eggplant, pleated and clamped between plexiglass magenta, flag folded and clamped red-orange and then isometric folded and clamped magenta.
Folded with clothespins along the edges:  lime isometric triangles and red-orange rectangles
Top to bottom:  Magenta folded--notice the difference in brightness front to back (I also love the lighter perimeter), Shibori in turquoise, yellow (the only dud in terms of patterning, but still great color) and then eggplant with cd's tucked between folded fabrics
My favorites:  scrunched with subtle but striking explosions of texture and color!
As I was reading up on hand dyeing and watching Jane's class, I saw so many beautifully rich hand dyed fabrics.  I tried very hard not to go in expecting to achieve perfectly hand dyed fabrics at the start, so I wasn't too disappointed by my initial experiments.  But after seeing all my initial results, I am pleasantly surprised.  As you can see--I got such a beautiful range of color and texture in my first session.  Only the yellow fabric which had been folded and then rolled did not produce clear texture, but otherwise a bold and bright fabric.  Everything else greatly exceeded my expectations.

I have always loved the look of hand dyed fabrics.  Unfortunately this love had prevented me from doing much with them as I just couldn't bear the thought of cutting into them.  But now that I am able to create more hand dyed fabrics of my own, it is my hope that I can start cutting into them and using them in future projects!!  As I was pressing my first batch of fabrics, I had visions of whole cloth quilts as well as possible pieced quilts...time will tell.  

Yes, I will confess that after just 1 dye session, I am most certainly hooked on hand dyeing my own fabric.  I am 'dyeing' to schedule future dye days to explore new dyeing techniques including tray dyeing and creating gradient solid colors.  Most of the fabrics used this week were of Kona weave, but I really loved the tighter weave of the Pimatex and will be looking to use more of that moving forward along with some more exotic fibers including Silk.

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