After a few weeks of spring cleaning, decluttering, reorganising and dealing with whatever got in the way of crafting, I made time this weekend to play with my Colourcraft Procion Dyes.
Though I’ve enjoyed crafting since I was very young I’ve gained little knowledge of using dyes. When I initially bought a starter set of procion dyes I had a dream of one day dyeing fabrics for quilts. On my first attempt to dye fabric I made the mistake of using a polyester cotton fabric to test the dyes. The colours were pale and some of the mixes were far from attractive. On my second attempt I managed to dye a rainbow of colours (from the 2 different yellows, two reds and two blues) on cotton fabric.
The dyeing was very uneven and mottled (not enough mixing), but I quite liked the colours produced. What I didn’t like was the long, drawn out process of mixing, waiting, rinsing, more rinsing, and washing over a period of days. My small kitchen was taken over with pots of dye and by the end of the dyeing session I just wanted an end to it. The early experience with the dyes left me feeling frustrated and disillusioned. However, despite the wobbly beginning with a starter kit I finally decided to treat myself to a full set of dyes just after my last birthday, the main reason being that I want to be able to create colourful fabrics for my stitching projects.
I’ve thought about signing up for online courses on dyeing, but I didn’t want to splash out on large quantities of fabric required for some of the courses. What I need this point in time is to become more familiar with the dyes and learn how to use them to dye small samples of different colours for use in my stitiching projects. With that in mind I had an experimental dyeing session a few days ago.
I already had the salt solution (9 ounces to 1 litre of water) and soda solution (7 ounces to 1 litre of water) ready. This had been prepared in my last brief dyeing session (in which I used different colours to create fabrics as part of the Distance Learning Machine Embroidery course I’m taking. I’d managed to achieve what I wanted to do, but I have a great deal to learn.
I had a few large pieces of cream and white cotton muslin that I wanted to use to test the colours of the dyes. I had an idea that the loosely woven fabric would allow me to create a few projects in which I could create layers of colours, and hopefully the layer underneath would show through somewhat. I also used a few pieces of another cotton fabric (silly me I ran out of the muslin – why doesn’t that surprise me). I cut the fabrics into pieces around a foot square, though some were left larger than others. I also had a supply of cream and white crochet cotton which I wanted to cut (at least a couple of meters each) and dye using the same colours as the fabrics.
I didn’t want to get bogged down with weighing the dye powder so I went in search of a small tool that I could use to pick up roughly the same amount of the dye powder each time. I settled for a small cuticle cleaning tool from a manicure set. For each dye bath I used:
- Two small scoops of procion dye
- Two teaspoons of salt solution
- One dessertspoon full of soda solution
- Half a cup of warm water.
In my first two sessions with the dyes I used plastic bags (I’d bought a book ‘Dyeing in Plastic Bags’ and was following instructions) but I found that they sometimes leak. This time I used plastic drinking glasses, mostly the half pint size, though some were smaller (a bit more lack of organisation).
A piece of fabric and two lengths of thread (different thicknesses) were added to the dye bath. These were left for a few hours before being removed, rinsed well and dried. As they were removed I placed another piece of cotton thread and a 6 inch square piece of fabric in the used dye bath, and these were left overnight. I was aware that the dye stops working after a short time, but I wanted to see if the spent dye would colour the fabric and thread to give pale shades. The results proved interesting. Some of the fabrics and threads had more colour than others (possibly due to my terrible measuring or maybe some of the dyes remain reactive for a little longer than others), but some of the threads came out a different colour to the original set (especialy where I’d used green dye, the second set of threads tended to be blue, probably due to the yellow being taken up quicker than the blue in the dye powder mix).
So, this is the first set of fabrics with the first and second set of threads:
This is my dye record showing the colour of both sets of threads and fabrics:
Storage of small quantities of fabric has been an issue for me in the past – I can never see what I’m looking for and I always end up throwing fabrics all over the place and then having to put them back. Not any more! I’ve started rolling fabric and storing it appropriate sized boxes so I can see the colours immediately. This is the full range of fabric produced during the dye session (arranged in an asda shoe storage box):
And the OCD organisational session continued to my other coloured fabrics:
Then I became even more OCD. I’d suspected that the second set of fabric (which I thought was cotton) could actually be a polyester cotton mix. This was due to the fact that the threads in the second batch came out much more colourful than the fabrics. I went outside and set about carrying out a burn test on fabrics I’d bought from charity shops and bargain buckets to determine whether they were natural (mostly cotton and silk) or synthetic (mostly polyester fabrics). Sure enough there was definately a high percentage of polyester in the second fabric (not a problem as I expected pale shades and didn’t mind). I then stored the tested fabrics as a natural stash and a synthetic stash (to make selection for dyeing easier in future):
I’m feeling quite proud of myself now. I’m not quite on the level of the OCD cleaners on TV, but I’m now dreaming of being able to at least give the illusion that I may still become an organised and tidy individual. All is as it should be – until my next crafting session!
I now feel confident that I can identify appropriate fabrics for the procion dyes and I can dye small quantities of fabric in a range of colours. I still need to look at the effect of different concentrations of dyes and more mixing of colours before I move on to how I can create different patterns etc. using the dyes. Thankfully I’m feeling much more positive about using procion dyes. That hand dyed quilt could one day become reality.