Last week I shared a pillow project by Candy Glendening, noting how the simplicity of the design allowed her hand-dyed fabrics to take center stage. Today I thought I’d give you some insight into Candy’s fabric dyeing process.
|Colorful baby clothes ready to be
picked. By Candy Glendening.
Candy’s training as a research scientist helps her get consistent results with the rich, vibrant colors she prefers to use in her fabric art.
But you don’t have to be a scientist to emulate her results. You can start simply with a dyeing project like these “Freshly Picked” baby outfits Candy designed.
- 100% cotton snap crotch tee, pants, socks
- PFD (Prepared for Dyeing) Fabric, at least an 8″ square (Candy usually dyes a fat quarter size)
- 2 Contrasting Procion MX Fiber Reactive dye powders
- Soda ash soak (1/2 cup Sodium Carbonate mixed in 1 gallon water)
- 2 recycled sports cap drink bottles to hold your dissolved dyes (not to be used later for food prep or consumption)
- 2 plastic containers that can hold your clothing/fabric compressed (not to be used later for food prep or consumption)
- 2 plastic drink cups & disposable spoons (not to be used later for food prep or consumption)
- 1 measuring cup you’ll never use for food preparation
- Particulate mask (to wear while handling the dye powders)
- Latex/rubber gloves to protect your hands
1. Start by soaking your clothing and fabric in the soda ash solution (this raises the pH of the fiber so that when the dye touches the fiber it will form a permanent, washfast bond).
|Prepare the fabric for dyeing by soaking
in a soda ash solution.
2. Prepare your dyes by placing about 2 teaspoons of dye into a plastic cup (make sure to wear your mask when working with the dry powder). In another plastic cup measure 1 cup of lukewarm water. Add a small amount of water to the dye, mixing it into a paste. Continue adding small amounts of water until the powder is completely dissolved.
3. Repeat this process with your other dye.
4. Pour this dye into your dye storage containers.
5. Wring out the soaking fabric and place the tee, socks (and some fabric if you’d like to add to your stash) in one pile, and the pants and fabric for the patch in another. Lay each piece flat and then “scrumble” it by pushing in from all sides until you’ve got a pancake of fabric about 1″ tall that has lots of nooks and crannies to hold the dye solution; this is what provides all the lovely visual texture in Candy’s fabrics.
|How to ‘scrumble’ baby clothes for
6. Once the “scrumbling” is complete, place all the clothing/fabric you would like a single color into a plastic container that holds the fabric compressed.
7. Repeat with your other clothes/fabric.
8. Slowly start adding dye (figure 8a) until the fabric/clothes are mostly colored, but with some white still showing (figure 8b). Massage the fabric/clothes until you don’t see any more white (figure 8c), there should be very little excess dye in the bottom of the container (figure 8d).
|Applying the dye.|
This type of dyeing is called “low water immersion dyeing.” With the dye in direct contact with the fiber, you can easily get intense colors, and with the “scrumbled” fabric, wonderful visual texture as well. Tip: When working with multiple colors, Candy keeps a container with water and a rag to quickly rinse and blot her gloved hands between colors.
9. Once you’ve added the dye and massaged all your clothes/fabric, let them sit in the sun or in a warm part of your house. After 2 hours, if the dyes were kept at room temperature, approximately 95% of the dye will have reacted with the fiber. You can wash the fabric then, or wait. Candy says she usually waits overnight to eke out that last little bit of dyeing (if your room is cool, the reaction will take longer). You also can leave these until you have time; it is at your convenience.
|Dyeing fabric; the batching process.|
10. Dump one shirt in your sink (be careful of splashes, the dye can still stain your countertop, your grout, and your clothes!!!) Rinse in cool water until the fabric loses its slippery feel and loses very little color when squeezed. When the slipperiness is gone, so is most of the soda ash, so the odds of any dye reacting with other fiber now are remote.
11. Repeat with the other color(s). At this point you can let them sit in a big bath of water for a bit to help with diffusion.
12. After a few hours of sitting in water, wash them (all together at this point) in the hottest temp your washing machine can do. Candy uses a small amount of Synthrapol, which is a detergent that is sold to help keep any washed away dye particles from depositing on the other fabrics, but if you did that first soak in individual containers, you probably won’t need it and plain old detergent (without bleach!) will be fine.
13. After the washing machine runs all the way through, Candy usually runs it again, stopping it in the middle of the washing agitation, lifting the lid and scooping out some water in a clear glass. If you see no color, your washing days are over–if you do, back to the washing machine for you!
I love this project, because when you’re finished, you have a beautiful, functional “product,” rather than a lovely piece of fabric you put in your stash for “someday.” (Though, truth be told, I have no problem with doing the latter!)
Candy explains her methods and techniques thoroughly on her Quilting Arts Workshop video Dyeing to Stitch: A Comprehensive Guide to Creating Colorful Fabric Art. Candy’s video, and many other books, videos, and emags about dyeing fabric are available at a great price during our Resolve to Save sale, ending today. If you’ve resolved to learn more about dyeing this year, now’s the time to act.