Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fabric Dyeing -- What I've learned this week

As I wrote before, the fabrics that I'm dyeing this week (I use the low-water immersion dyeing method) will be for sale, and because of the large volume of dyeing, I've learned some new tricks:

1) I want finished 1 yard (plus 1-2 inch) pieces of fabric to sell, so if I do not use PFD (prepared for dye) fabric I have to prewash my fabric as one large piece then dry it, press it, and cut it down to size. I tried cutting to size before washing, but the several rinses and two washes the fabric goes through in the dye process distort the fabric. Often that one-yard +2" piece is so distorted that I can't get a full yard out of it when it's finished.
2) I need to dye similar colors per session so that the rinsing and final wash can be done in one batch. This way I avoid mixing lights and darks in the washer and we save water. High efficiency washers, by the way, are fine with low-water immersion dyeing.
3) One batch = 16 to 18 yards. I can dye the pieces in a reasonable amount of time and then take a good break. The photo above is one-session worth of dyeing with 2-3 pieces per tub.
4) Gradation dyeing is the way to go. The first piece in the dye will be the darkest, the next piece will be a medium of the same color and the third piece will be light. For all three yards, it takes only 4 tablespoons of dye concentrate. It also helps in the rinsing process because the top two pieces absorb dye that would otherwise have been rinsed away later.
5) Breaks need to be frequent and long to give my body a rest from standing. Even with good foam padding on the garage floor, the cement floor takes a toll on my feet and legs.

6) There are many, many ways to fold and manipulate fabric. Yesterday was the first time I used the above method of rubber banding resist. I collect containers and keep them in a box in the garage, knowing that they will be used in my work at some point. Well, all of those covers came in handy yesterday. Who knows if this will work, but it looks cool.

Have you ever used one of these cement mixing tubs before? They are made of an indestructible black plastic and come in two sizes that I've seen. This one is 25" long x 20" wide x 6" deep, but there are larger ones, and they can be purchased at a home improvement store. This one makes a great fabric dyeing container because the bottom is flat.

When my boys were little my sister worked at Lego, so you know we had thousands of Legos in the house. We kept them in these tubs which very easily slipped under the bed for storage.


Julie Bagamary said...

The fabric is coming out nicely! I'm curious to see how the container lids turn out too.

Studio Lou Lou said...

I love-love you blog posting today. The fabric Manipulation "Shibori" is tooo cool and I hope you post the results.