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Oh, the Joy of Dyeing

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Well, here’s one you weren’t expecting ...

The joy of dyeing.

In six easy steps, you will be intoxicated with the excitement, the thrill, the drama. Enlist your friends and family to help, to experiment with something that is basic to our human existence.

Let’s dye together. Before you start checking the jail term for Dr. Jack Kavorkian, relax, I am referring to textile dying, not transcending this world to another, or aspiring or floating up to heaven.

I have a roll of parachute cloth. I bought it from some warehouse, where it sat for untold numbers of years. It is military issue, parachute cloth, 1965, unshrunk, nylon, and it weighs less than 0.88 ounces per square yard.

I got it cheap. 710 yards worth is what the tag said. Well, what to you do with that much of anything?

You make clothes out of it, that’s what. I made skirts, scarves, more skirts, kid’s skirts, tie dyeing them, so they would not be cloud white.

Tie dye is what it sounds like, just from the sixties, when they were going through a renaissance period much like today, when they wanted everything organic, and vegetarian, and the youth of America were trying to live an ecologically sound existence. Well, they were probably dying cloth with blueberries, and sugar beets, and tarrow roots, and carrots.

I just use either rit powered dye or jacquard makes a complete line of dye.

You just do not realize how many of your garments are dyed after they are made. I think you would be surprised to know how well most fabric takes to a face lift of new coloring. Cotton and any natural fibers will dye the easiest and the quickest. Other fabrics like nylon, or polyester will need some coaxing, like additional heat, or some need vinegar added to your dye bath. (Not the bathtub silly, or you will be scrubbing way too much, and your family will complain.) I add just plain table salt to some dye baths, as it helps the color to stick better.

Well, basically, there are always tons of package directions, which you should always follow, to insure product liability, meaning that it is liable to do what it is supposed to do. But knowing what fiber you are working with is more important, and often less available information.

Well, my rule is try some and see what happens. Second rule, don’t ruin a garment by dying it, check a small inconspicuous spot first. Then you can do the whole garment.

Note: Stains do not dye like unstained cloth. So if you have a stained garment, use it as a practice garment, and maybe the stain will be less noticeable, and you can save the otherwise unusable garment.

Wash your garment thoroughly, and do not dry.

Wet cloth will take up the dye all at once, and you can make sure there are no fabric softener residues on the cloth. Also, the garment must all go in at one time, i mean really all at once, for some fibers, even just a few seconds will mean a darker shade, so all at once means all at once.

So, I am dying my parachute cloth, I use 10 yards at a time. This is only a quarter pound in weight, but the fabric is 30 feet long. First is the tying.

This is just that a tying of half knots in the cloth. This can be a self-knot, or a separate strip of cloth that ties itself around your fabric bundle. Note: wherever the string is … the dye isn’t sort of.

That means, the knots or ties will try to keep out the dye. But it is not perfect at it, so you will get a bleeding of the color, and sometimes with some dyes and colors, you will get separation. This is when your brown dye tells you that it took red to make brown, and it separates out, giving your brown tie dye, a pink layer.

Basically, the possibilities are endless. Fibers can turn different colors, with different dyes, and different dyes will flow through the knots differently. The folding of the fabric in any logical way, accordion, or a winding fold will have the effect of repeating your knot design, either with dissipating intensity, or just repeating pattern.

This really is the magical part of tie dye, you cannot screw it up, if you think you have, you have just discovered a new way to do it.

Example: 10 yards, fold in half lengthwise, 5 yards, now fold in half lengthwise. Fold in half again, the same way. Now you have one long, neatly folded cloth, about nine inches wide and 5 yards or fifteen feet long.

Take one end and tie in a half knot, 6 inches from the two loose ends of the cloth. Now take the other end (the fold end) and do the same half knot, only 3 inches from the end. Now with the rest, try all the different ways you can think of to knot and twist, and tie, and whatever you want, tuck roll, tie, tie with string, making tiny white lines, or use chunks of cloth to tie your bundles. Tie them as tight as you can without ruining the cloth, or the outfit, or without needing scissors to get the knots out. (This is the advantage to using strips of different cloth, they can be cut off, but carefully.)

Once you have a wad of knots, seriously this looks bad, but it is going to get better, drop the whole thing into your dye bath. By now you have researched your color and cloth, so you know how long to leave it in there.

I have had some incredible luck with an all night recipe, for a hard to dye material, the results are glorious.

Use tongs to take out the wad of knots. Dye on hands looks funny. Now put in another pan to rinse out excess dye. Rinse in cold water, when water runs clear, start to take out your knots. This may be difficult if you have a stiff polyester material. Be patient.

Once your knots are out, rinse again. You can imagine trying to do this with 10 yards of fabric. Don’t try this with 10 yards of fabric, unless you have your own roll of parachute cloth. Otherwise start with 4 yards. It will work just as well.

Note: You can actually put only half of the wad of knots in the dye bath, resulting in half one color, and with the other half sitting in another color dye bath. Get tricky.

So now you have wet, tie dyed fabric, you will not see the true color until it is all the way dry.

This is when I like to take it outside where you can see the mouthwatering colors, and you can dry it quickly in the summer, and sometimes even in the winter if it is dry. If you are impatient, and put this in your dryer, you might have an orange dryer drum. You can wash a cotton towel, and then dry it; you should be able to remove the orange color, now you have an orange towel. I think you get my drift, dry it outside.

Then, you can take your beautiful design you made, make some more similar knots and place in a separate dye color, which will:

1) Still give you some undyed inside the knots spots.
2) Give you a second color of tie dye.
3) Will give you a third color, a blend of the first two colors.

Basic colors are always used to dye, because the amount you use determines the shade of color, and the mixing of these basic colors gives you all the colors of the rainbow. Not really, but with the dyes available to you, you can get all the colors you will ever need.

Note: As fabric dyes, it sucks the color molecules out of the dye bath water. Each subsequent article going into the bath will get less color, as a slower rate. When you are dying cotton, it will happen so fast you can actually see the water getting clear. If you want two things to match, put them in together, and take them out together.

Play around with it, you can also dye fabric trim, lace, flowers, silk, cotton, rayon, linen, nylon, polyester, raime, wool, you name it, I’ve dyed it. Sometimes i try the technique of fading color, where you submerse the article, then with one end, you slowly, really slowly lift the cloth out of the dye bath, giving you a dark at the bottom and light at the top effect. They call this moire effect.

Let me know how much fun you have with this.



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