Hand Dyes, Tutorials

Dyeing Fabric – Getting My Mad Scientist Groove On

For my first effort back at fabric dyeing after a long break I decided to do some experimenting and to use up fabric that was in my stash,  left over from other projects or who knew what? So I ended up with a stack of Mystery Fabric.

A couple of pieces were obviously muslin, the rest either Kona cotton or Pimatex. Just for good measure I threw in a piece of (I think it’s cotton) lace and some cheesecloth. I cut the fabric into fat quarter size pieces.

To gain some kind of ability to measure results against predicted results in the instructions, I carefully labeled each piece of fabric. I used a Pitt pen on Tyvek and stapled the label to a corner of each piece.

Not only didn’t I know WHAT the fabric was I didn’t know if it was PFD or had been pretreated. So it all went in the washing machine and enjoyed a soda ash bath.  The lace and cheesecloth were included and were put into a mesh laundry bag so they wouldn’t get chewed up.

My equipment was arranged on the counter. Helpful Hint  It all came from the Dollar Store – and is stored away between dyeing sessions so that it won’t get mixed up with the ‘people’ utensils.  Make sure you  have a set of dedicated measuring cups and spoons.  Plastic is fine – Do not use metal because of the chemicals.  You will also need plastic bowls and stirring implements.

Helpful Hint  Make sure you carefully label everything.  But don’t use a Pitt pen on your Tyvek – it came out in the wash!!

Following one of the recipes in my guide book I mixed up a series of dye concoctions – each one a little weaker in color than the next.  I wanted to end up with a variety of green fabric – envisioning some nice brights amongst them. Helpful Hint – I substituted colors – how much difference could it make? Right? Wrong! Don’t substitute colors if you want the results shown in your directions!   Here is a photo of the fabrics enjoying their dye bath in tightly zipped up baggies.

When I first put the fabrics into the baggies I smooshed them around so that they would get thoroughly exposed to the dye.

It’s very interesting how different the instructions can be in reference books. The two that I use are:

Fabric Dyer’s Dictionary  by Linda Johansen  C&T Publishing

Dyeing to Quilt  by Joyce Mori and Cynthia Myerberg  The Quilt Digest Press                                                                                                               

I found that the biggest differences in this case addressed the soda ash bath process and the “steeping” time or “curing” time for the fabric.

Previously I had used a 3 hour steeping time; this time I went with overnight. The next morning I removed the fabric from the bags, rinsed it under running water then washed it with Synthrapol.     And here is the dyed fabric. Not exactly the Brights that I was going for but nevertheless a nice array of greens to add to my stash.

Unfortunately all the numbers from my markers disappeared!  I’ll have to try another pen next time.

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