Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Dyeing Experiments

I hadn't yet gotten around to blogging about my dye experiments, but I discovered my sister Mim is sending people over to my blog to look for them, so I figured I'd better not disappoint them.

I spent my Saturday doing dye experiments. I dyed two different kinds of materials. One was 8mm silk habotai scarves. The other was silk/rayon burnout velvet scarves. The habotai scarves were done with a low-water immersion technique. I had more ambitious plans for the burnout ones-- I was hoping to succeed at dyeing them two colors. I planned to do that by using fiber-reactive Procion MX dyes on the silk and rayon, and then overdyeing the material with an acid dye that would only take on the silk. The goal was to dye the silk crimson and the rayon gold, because these are our local high school colors.

On the habotai scarves I did some variations on the low-water technique using one and two colors. I tried the "Value Parfait" technique as pictured in Ann Johnston's "Color By Accident". It
didn't work. Instead of three shades of the same color, I got three scarves dyed to varying degrees with the same shade. The bottom one was almost solid, the middle one had some lighter spots, and the top one had some white and some color. No matter how hard you look at it, a dark blue and white scarf is not a light blue scarf. The effect of the top scarf was interesting, though, and I was able to replicate it without having to dye the bottom two scarves, by putting the dye in first and then throwing the scarf on top of it.

I did a couple of scarves successfully in two colors, thus vindicating my theory that the reason I ended up with a chartreuse scarf was that I did not add the sodium carbonate soon enough after dye application. Also I noticed that I like the resulting pattern better if I fold the scarf in half, then crumple it. I call this one "Fire".

I also attempted to dye a couple of scarves in three shades of red by using a red dye and small quantities of yellow and blue. I found that for this I got the best results by putting the yellow and blue on first, then the sodium carbonate solution, then the red. I did not get exactly the results I wanted, though, since this red (Dharma Trading's Chinese Red #10A) did not yield a fire-engine red. Instead it yielded a dark hot pink on the silk. I tried increasing the concentration of the dye, and I ended up with a really dark hot pink. It was a very nice shade of pink, but it was only red when wet.

I also tried some dip-dyeing with plastic clothespins for resist. Three of the scarves I folded in a triangle pattern that yielded flower-like medallions down the length of the scarf. A fourth I
folded in a rectangle pattern. My dad, who was in college in the Sixties, proclaimed all the scarves (including the low-water immersion ones) to be "tie-dyed" and refused to see that there were different techniques producing different effects. To him they were all "tie-dye".

I tried to mix gray, but succeeded only in making some "interesting" shades of brown. I did not try to mix any colors because it was getting late and my baby has decided that the day that I dye is the appropriate day for fits of crying that can only be cured by being held close by Mommy. I saved my dye concentrates for more experiments later this week. At that time I will attempt to mix a fire engine red out of magenta and yellow.

The rayon/silk velvet scarves are proving to be more problematic. My first dye run with the golden yellow dye (Dharma #4) was WAY too strong. The sample turned out a lovely bright citrus orange instead of the golden yellow. Another try with a more diluted dyebath turned
out a golden shade. After these were allowed to dry, I put them in an acid dye bath of Hot Fuchsia (the one that produced Mim's eye-popping heliotrope yarn), reasoning that the magenta color of the Fuchsia would overdye the yellow of the fiber-reactive dye to make red on the silk portions. I also put a plain white sample into the acid dyebath, because I wanted to see if the overdyeing worked better if the acid dyebath went first, then the fiber-reactive dyebath.

I ran into a few problems, though, with this overdyeing idea. The first is that thanks to my mistake in mixing the yellow dye, the yellow was so strong that it made the silk part turn a nice strong orange instead of a red. The other is that the silk background color shows through the rayon velvet pile, mixing the colors for the rayon as well as the silk. I will have to try ironing the scarf to see if making it have a panne velvet effect will intensify the apparent color of the velvet design. It's hard to see in the scan below, since except at the edge of the fabric you are viewing the pile straight on, but the pile is actually yellow.

I may yet have success if I dye the piece that is currently magenta (which has only been through the acid dye bath so far) with a lighter shade of yellow, or if I re-dye the samples in an attempt to get a darker magenta overdye. I may also consider using a different color for the acid dye bath. But even if I can't get crimson and gold, I can still get some neat effects. I can get scarves with the velvet a lighter shade than the background and shining white when viewed from an angle, and a white fringe to boot. If I do these in a navy blue I'll get the university colors, and if I do them in sky blue, I can get the colors of another neighboring high school with only one dye run. (I don't think I'll be able to get the same effect with the colors of the other neighboring high school, which are blue and orange, without handpainting.) I can also get the scarves to dye in complementary colors. The sample that was originally golden yellow came out with a red-orange background and yellow pile, and it looks really great in its own right.

That's all I got done so far.