Kim Eichler-Messmer


Posts in "dye"
Inching along
Not to complain or make excuses or anything but a lot has happened in the last 6 days. Mostly to appease my own guilt for not being in the studio (and not blogging about being in the studio) I'm going to list the events here:
1. There was another snowstorm.
2. Simon and I got in a car accident as result of said snowstorm (we were on our way to buy a new shovel and got rear-ended (everyone is fine)).
3. Our ceiling (our new ceiling in our new house) decided to leak because of all the snow buildup.
4. It has been colder than a you know what.
5. I'm still on winter break. Ok, so that's not a very good excuse. I'm starting to have that anxiety where you feel like you're running out of time and still have so much to do, but there's not enough time so you might as well not bother, so you don't do anything which makes you feel even more like you're running out of time. It's a vicious cycle and seems counter-intuitive to have winter break anxiety, but there you have it. It's even worse in the summer.

So finally today I was back in my studio. What did I work on? A big mathy measuring party called Depth of Shade Dyeing. It's my favorite. I dyed the cyclone-tastic spine fabric from last week and some leftover patchwork fabric from my last quilt.

Depth of shade is a way to dye fabric using specific ratios of weight of fabric to weight of dye. I only started using this method about a year ago and it is slowly but surely changing my life. It sounds complicated and sort of is at first, but once you get it everything goes so much smoother. The best part is that much less dye is wasted than using regular kitchen measurements for dyeing.

I primarily use procion MX dyes, which are a fiber reactive dye, and cellulose fibers (cotton).

Step 1. Weigh your dry fabric. You can use grams or ounces. It doesn't really matter what you use as long as you're consistent. My pieces of fabric are usually smallish (a yard or less) so I use grams for more accuracy.

Step 2. Write down how much the fabric weighs. All calculations are based on this weight.
This is how I write it:
WOF (weight of fabric): 87g
DOS (depth of shade): 8% (you choose this. normally 8% is pretty dark, 1% is pretty light, 3% or 5% are good medium values)
H20: 20 x WOF = 20 x 87g = 1740ml (approx. 1.75 liters)
Salt: .5 x WOF = .5 x 87 = 43.5 g
Soda Ash: .09 x WOF = .09 x 87 = 7.83 g
Dye: .08 (8%) x WOF = .08 x 87 = 6.96

That's it. Those are your measurements. From there I usually convert to cups or teaspoons for easier measuring. You can see my lovely notes:

Step 3: Soak your fabric in water. Starting with wet fabric allows the fabric to dye more evenly than if it were dry. Sometimes it's ok to start with dry fabric, but only if you want it to look blotchy. Below you can see my two buckets with water. The one on the left is the fabric soaking, the one on the right is plain water that will become the dyebath.

Step 4: The order of the next few steps is up for debate*. My way of doing things is not necessarily the "right" way to do things but it gets the job done and saves a bit of time.

So Step 4a: Add salt to dyebath and stir well.

4b. Dissolve powdered dye in a small amount of water from the dyebath (wear a dustmask and gloves!!! wipe up any spills immediately!!!) and stir until there are no dry clumps of dye floating on the surface of the water. Stir the dissolved dye into the dyebath.

4c. Sprinkle the soda ash on the surface of the dyebath and then stir well. *This is where the debate can occur. All the instructions I've ever read claim that you must add the fabric to the dyebath before adding soda ash. You then stir frequently for 15 minutes, take the fabric out of the dyebath and put into a "holding bucket" and then add the soda ash (which has been dissolved in water first) to the dyebath. Only then can you return the fabric to the dyebath. I understand the merits of this method, but really it all seems like a waste of time and buckets.

4d. Add wet fabric to dyebath and stir well.

Step 5. The fabric needs to stay in the dyebath for about 45 minutes. The more you stir, the more even the dye will be. So I try to stir my fabric every 5 to 10 minutes but usually forget until its been the full 45 minutes. If I'm in a big rush and don't want a dark color, I might take it out after 30 minutes. I've also left fabric in a dyebath over night. No big deal.

Step 6. Wash the fabric out with warm water and synthrapol until the water runs clear. This process takes sooooo long and takes a ton of water. If anyone out there in the interweb knows of a dye that gets good even results on cotton and uses less water please let me know. This is also a time to wear gloves because synthrapol is very concentrated and can be rough on your skin.

Before and after

Before and After again

This is jumping ahead a few steps. The spine fabric turned out a little too dark - the red half was hard to see. So I sprayed thiox around the spine to lighten the green dye. Next, the two pieces of recently dyed fabric were sewn together and the heads from last week were applied to the top.

I think it's moving along...we'll see where it ends up.