Monday, March 14, 2011

My weekend dyeing experiment

You may have noticed that every book on dyeing fabric tells you to do it a different way. And they do so in such an authoritaitve way. Some of that can be explained by there being a number of equally acceptable variants. But some contradictions are just that - down and out unreconcilable contraditions. And which fabric is best to use from the array on offer at Whaleys of Bradford, the UK fabric wholesaler of choice? I asked on the Contemporary Quilt Group Yahoo group and got more fabrics named than people who were giving the opinions. Helpful.

 So, realising that my bathroom is in such a state I cannot make it worse with splashed dye and realising that I had a small window of opportunity until the builders come on the 21st, I set out to experiment.

I chose five fabrics to test:
Plain Cotton White
Poplin Cotton Delphina White (Shrunk)
Mercerized cotton white
Cotton sateen Arian White
Plain Cotton Optic White

I shall be testing different methods in due course but the point of Experiment No 1 was (a) to compare the fabrics and (b) to see if salt made any difference. Ann Johnstons book Color by Accident says no. Committed to Cloth's Tray Dyeing says yes.

I adapted the basic method from Ann Johnston's book - adapated in the sense that she uses urea (which of course Committed to Cloth do not)  and I didn't have any. I used a fat quarter of each fabric for each side of the experiment, in each case dying in a 3.8 litre lakeland plastic lunch box and scrumping the FQ's up side by side. I wet the fabrics with a cup and a quarter of warm plain water.
I made a dye concentreate with Procion MX magenta - two and a quarter tablespoons to one and a quarter cups of warm water.  From that concentrate I took ten tablespoons and for the first box of fabric I made that up  to a total of one and a quarter cups of warm water and poured it over the fabric. For the second box I made the 10 tablespoons of concentreate up with a salt solution to a total of one and a quarter cups again. I made the salt solution with 200g of salt to 1 litre of water.

For both boxes I agitated to let the dye through and let sit for 10 mins. I then poured over a cup and a quarter of soda ash solution. I made that solution by adding 9 tablespoons of soda ash to 1 gallon of warm water. I squished the fabric around again and let sit in a warm place, lids on. I agitated again after an hour, hand rinsed after six and washed in a machine with synthrapol.

The first lesson I learned was that if you put two capfuls of synthrapol in a domestic washer there is so much foam created that it backs up  through the powder dispenser drawer and all over the floor. But lets not linger on that point.

Unfortunately this is the best picture I cna get my camera to take and it does not really show the subtle variations. The top row are without salt, the bottom row with.
Verdict: Salt made no discrenable difference at all.

The fabrics are as listed above arrayed from left to right.
(a) Plain cotton white was a shabbier pinkier outcome than the middle three. It also feels rough. Not the best. But not the worst. That was most definately Plain Cotton OPtic White. It was a nightmare. Not only is it the most faded of teh colurs it unravlleed everywhere which none of the others did. It came out of teh washer like this:

To be avoided at all costs.
The Delphina Poplin, the Mercerised Cotton and the Cotton Sateen Arian all took the colour pretty much the same. The difference is in the weight and finish of the fabric.

 The mercerised cotton is the heaviest - heavier than most quilting cotton but not too thinc to use in a quilt. It feels sturdy. I did a hand stich test on all three, using a perle thread and sewing through one layer of the fabric and one layer of wadding ( since I tend to pilow case my handstitched quilts)  and it was absolutley unremarkable to hand stitch through.
The Cotton sateen is gorgeous because of the finish to the fabric which is kind of - well sateeny! Shimmery.  However, it was a little stiffer to hand sticth. Not hard at all on individual stitches but for a running stitch of more than two at a time it showed a touch of resistance.  The Delphina cotton is the lightest. perhaps akin to the flimsy Kaffe Fasset fabrics you get. I had read on the CQ Yahoo group that because of its close weave it was hard to hand stitch. I did not find it hard even with such a thick perle thread. However, because of its light weight when I did running stitches it did gather up which the other two did not do. The stitches left a more marked dimpling effect which could be agood thing if you were after a distinct valley between your stitches for contrast purposes.

Overall, I think you get what you pay for. the fabrics are different widths so I converted to a square meter price based on the price for 1- 2 metres. It gets cheaper if you order bigger amounts. Listed in descending order my my personal preferences are:

Cotton sateen Arian White £9.08 per sq m

Poplin Cotton Delphina White (Shrunk) £4.06 per sq m ties with  Mercerized cotton white £3.62 per sq m

Plain Cotton White £ 2.79 per sqm.

Plain Cotton Optic White £1.82 per m sq

What a surprise! I think the sateen is too expensive for just playing and trying out methods. However even factoring in dye costs it is not that far above commerical fabrics for a special final project.  Certainly a lot cheaper than the sateen on sale at Fetsival last year whch was over £30 per meter if I remember correctly. For playing I would go for the next two on my list
I hope this helps anyone else considering having a go.


Gerrie said...

LOL!! I read that as 2 cupfuls and could only imagine what that would do. That is a pretty springy color!

sandra wyman said...

I have a cheaply-reproduced booklet (recommended by Irene MacWilliam among others) I wrote some time ago when I was running a fabric-dyeing business - if you'd like a free copy it does explain all sort of things (like what salt and urea actually do!): email me and I'll send it or bring it to weekend NW group on 27th if you're going. (Would expect feedback as I'm being nagged into redoing it as a proper book and think I shall have to do that!)

Linda said...

I do like people with a methodical approach. Particularly those who share their results!!! I start off with good intentions but get waylaid somewhere.

Though I have replicated your with/without salt experiment, with PFD fabric from Doughty's, with exactly the same lack of discernable difference.

Jeannie said...

LOL! I did the same thing as Gerrie. I too, tend to overdo the synthrapol. Thanks for sharing your experiment. What I have learned is that we have hard water. Last year I added a water softner to the mix and that is what made the difference, not the salt. Gorgeous color that you chose.

Terry said...

I believe anything Ann Johnston says! I know Ann and she is the most careful, methodical artist you can imagine, yet her work is gloriously free and exuberant. And her dyed fabric is rich and intense. Gorgeous stuff.

VivJM said...

This is a really informative and useful post, thanks! I have armed myself with load of procion dyes and a selection of books to start dyeing my own fabrics and have also founda bewildering array of conflicting advice and instructions. So glad you have documented your experience here.

And while I am commenting, I want to say that the Twelve by Twelve book is wonderful, LOVE LOVE LOVE it!

yasmin sabur said...

Thanks for sharing your dye day.
Two things - you can purchase pima cotton sateen sheets at thrift stores. Wide variety of thread counts. Cost effective, environmentally friendly and dye beautifully.
Fiber reactive dyes are chemicals, so I always try to include basic safety instructions whenever I write about them - rubber gloves, mask, ventilation, separate utensils from those used for cooking.

Colin Brandi said...

As person who used to throw any sort of fabric into the dye just to see what happened I admire this methodical approach and find the results really interesting. I only have 2 comments - firstly I always understood that urea was only needed in printing (and other very low water techniques) because it attracts moisture and aids the chemical reaction. Secondly I keep boxes of both 'unwashed' and washed fabric, cutting the corners off fabric before its washed prior to dying not only helps reduce the unravelling but it also help show which is which.

Joyce said...

A money saving tip

Recently I was lucky to be included in a dyeing day organized locally by some C&G students. The very experienced dyer running it told us not to waste our money on synthrapol but to use "Ecover ecological washing-up liquid" instead because it gives just as good results.

PS Thing I found v successful was dyeing scrim for use on the embellisher. Buying it already dyed is about 5 times as expensive as natural.

Working Mum said...

I couldn't understand most of that, but if I'd had my red pen handy.............

The typos!!

Could do better! ;)

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