So the other day I really screwed up a dye job. And not like a bad job, but a total fail, wa wa waaa. I dyed some fabric a deep blue green-blue color that was just a tad too blue for me. It was really lovely, but I felt like I might not wear it as much as I wanted to. I should have just dealt with it, but I decided I was gonna try to bleach it a bit. After TWO bleach baths, it was semi-messed up, but in a cool, I-can-still-make-lemonade out this kind of way. It looked tie-dyed, and it was actually really pretty. I should have just stopped there (would that I HAD), but like an idiot I had to try and bleach it one more time, and BUMMER, I ended up with completely shreddred fabric. My FAVORITE silk-viscose too! Agghgh!!! Why didn’t it occur to me that 3 strong bleach baths wasn’t a good plan? I dye fabric ALL the time, so I was mad at myself for going crazy with the bleach, I know better!
I learned a powerful lesson that I’ve learned too many times before. TEST your dye. Just do it. If you care about the project, it’s worth preparing a little cup of dye to test a square of fabric. Every fiber and blend takes the dye a little differently, and sometimes that little bit can make the difference. I usually just dissolve about 1/8 teaspoon and a teaspoon of salt in a little mug, and let my little test-square sit for a half hour or so. It will be a little different (probably more vibrant) in the actual dye bath, but this will give you a good idea of how the fabric will take the dye. If I find I don’t quite like the color, it’s easy to mix the dyes at this stage to try and play around with the color.
Another thing I’m relearning is how important it is to keep the fabric moving. I use the tub/bucket dying method, and have been a little lazy with this lately–just stirring every so often when I pass by or remember, and consequently my dye jobs were getting a little splotchy and uneven. I corrected this by planting myself by the bucket/bath (grab a book or something), and stir frequently. This prevents the setting of the dye in the creases and folds of the fabric.
My all-time favorite dye is dharma trading‘s fiber reactive procian dye, which I’ve talked about lots round here. It involves a chemical reaction (with the soda ash fixative) that permanently fixes the dye, so you don’t get fading with every wash (I’m looking at you, Rit). It’s also about the same price as Rit, but you get wwaaaaaaay more than one dye bath with a little tub. I’d say each little tub is good for around 5-8 projects (guesstimate) depending on the size. And there’s so many lovely rich and vibrant colors to choose from!
-Make sure you have enough water! You want enough for the fabric to move around freely–if you don’t then your fabric will likely end up with variation in saturation and a mottled, creased effect. I use a big five gallon bucket and set it in (an empty) bathtub in case of spills. Just to clarify, I don’t fill UP the bucket, I use enough water for the fabric to move around freely, (this chart is very helpful).
-Don”t skimp on the salt (non-iodized or “does not contain iodine”), it really matters. It’s what makes the dye “stick” to your fabric, so be generous.
-I just started using this calsolene oil which you add to the bath in the beginning and helps to produce more even results, and I gotta say I’ve noticed a difference and am pleased with the results.
So now I’m working on another project, and I prepared like ten little dye baths and really learned a lot about the fabric and dye results. It was a half hour (I did it while doing my dishes) well invested!
I really love dying fabric; I enjoy the process, love the results, and am still learning! What are your dying secrets?
Congratulations Emily K you won Victory’s Lola Tunic Pattern!
Congratulations Amy U you won Figgy’s Banyan Tee Pattern!
And Congratulations Sarah (“Wonderful! Such a cute twist on the regular shirt.”), you won Megan Nielsen’s Briar Tee Pattern! I’ll be in touch with all of you soon!