Thursday, July 01, 2010

Dyeing Three Ways

Paul is directing & organising his school's show later in the year, and we thought it would be good to dye the kids t-shirts as an easy way to differentiate between the groups... so naturally a spot of experimentation was in order ;-)

we needed to document the process so that it can be taught to the other teachers, so i thought i may as well share it here too!

We were using Procion MX fibre reactive dye + soda ash, and playing with Low Water Immersion dyeing, Spray dyeing, and good ol' Tie Dyeing!!

Firstly we divided the cotton shirts into different colours/techniques, weighed them, and noted the details on scraps of paper-

We then took the shirts for tie dyeing & spray dyeing and soaked them in a soda ash solution - 1 cup soda ash per 4L water - for 15+ minutes (15 is the minimum, up to an hour is fine)

meanwhile.... the low water immersion-

the LWI fabric DOESN'T get soaked, but instead you crumple it up so that it looks like a brain, and cram it snuggly into bowls-
then you mix up your dye as per the instructions (i was working with amounts varying from 2.5oz-4oz of dry fabric, so was using between 1/8tsp-1tsp of dye powder!) and pour it over your fabric-
i added more of the blue dye than the purple (cos i was too generous mixing up the blue, as per usual), and you can see the difference in effect with the finished product...

leave to sit for 40min or so (while messing around with other techniques!), then add a cup or so of your soda ash solution prepared above-
you don't need to smoosh it or stir it, just leave to soak for as long as you can stand - apparently 8 hours is the minimum, up to 48 is good, but who has that kind of patience?

then rinse, warm/hot wash, and dry!

you can see the difference between the dye effects here-
the purple had room to spread, and split across the spectrum, so there are reddish-plum areas, and some stretching all the way to pale blue - whereas the blue had more dye to spread throughout the fabric, so just created a gentle mottled look-

now... Spray dyeing-

first you need to cut out a template - it can either be a whole sheet with just the image you want missing, or *just* a shape, to create a silhouette... we used plastic clearfile pockets, but i've seen leaves used which is quite cool too...

(we learnt though that we would have got better results if we had weighed/stuck down our template somehow!)

once your fabric has soaked for a while, wring it out, lay it onto a flat surface (we used the bottom of the bath) - if you don't want the image to bleed through onto the back you'll need to slip a plastic bag or something inside.

lay your template over the top, then lightly spray your pre-mixed dye on!
be sure you cover the whole template, and try to ensure the template is snug against the fabric
leave to set for 8+ hours-
then rinse, warm/hot wash & dry!

ta da!
as i said before, we discovered that we would have got better results if our templates were held down somehow, and the pink was a bit wishy-washy really...
but it's a fun technique, and would be an easy way for older kids to decorate shirts :-)

finally tie dyeing-

you don't have to spend long googling to come up with all sorts of different ways you can tie your fabric, but we were after something a bit like crazy tiger stripes, so after our shirts had soaked, we wrung them out, and just twisted them up & bound them with some polyester sewing thread...

i had read that a common beginners mistake with tie dye is to be too sparing with the dye, so you end up with an entirely white middle, so we popped our tied up shirts into a bowl, then added plenty of dye-
and gave them a good squish-
(yeah my hands were purple for about 5 days - and a whole week later my nails are still quite dark!)

after an hour or so i tipped out the excess dye - but didn't squeeze it at all - then left it to sit for 8+ hours...

then just like the others - rinse, warm/hot wash & dry!
the one on the left was just twisted up, but the right one we concertina wrinkled first *then* twisted.

now as i said before, i went overboard mixing up the blue dye, and we had the bowl of soda ash solution left sitting there.....

soooo i dumped one of paul's manky old white shirts in the soda ash, then 15min later tipped the dye in too.... gave it a stir occasionally, then left it like everything else...

still not the world's most beautiful shirt, but a definite improvement on how it was!!
( i could have tossed 1/2 a cup of salt in to make the colour more even, but didn't)

so there you go, three different ways of dyeing fabric using the same materials!

it was a fun experiment, and we've got a few ideas about how we would improve them in future, but if you've got some plain ol' t-shirts or fabric hanging around, then i really recommend giving them a go!

(i've posted about LWI dyeing before - with multiple colours - here!)

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