I am by no means an expert on dyeing fabric… but one colour on cotton canvas I can manage.
I have done some really rustic dyeing… fibre reactive dye using melted snow in really small batches. I love putting the natural fabric into the dye bath and pulling out COLOUR… it is so rewarding. I have come a long way since I first experimented with dyeing on the moutain. I have had mixed luck with natural dyes that I’ve cooked up myself… some really amazing colours and several shades of ‘dirt’. I do love the fibre reactive and acid dyes… the colours are intense and amazing and easy to control.
It’s almost impossible to achieve that sort of control with the naturals… I do have a bag of indigo that I am looking forward to working with, but for the time frame and narrow margin for error I’m saving that particular project to do for its own sake. Meanwhile I have several shades of blue to choose from for the backdrop… alpine blue or sky blue being the top picks… and since I’m going for sky… sky blue it is.
So here’s what I did…
1~ Fill the washer with warm water, while the machine is filling I soak the fabric in the tub so that it is wet when it goes in and the dye can disperse more evenly. When the washer is full I add 2kg of table salt and let it dissolve and then let the machine agitate for a few moments. This is a lot less salt then is suggested but I am reluctant to add more than that to my septic system and so far it has been effective so I haven’t seen the need to increase the salt. Next I mix up the dye. Start slowly by making a paste and fulling wetting the powder and then add water a little bit at a time to ensure that the dye is completely dissolved. This is then added to the water in the washing machine. Let the machine agitate for a couple of minutes. The dye bath is now ready.
2~ Add the wet fabric to the dye bath ensuring that the fabric is loose and able to fully submerge in the dye bath. Now it’s time to keep it moving… let the machine agitate for about a half an hour. I set the timer on the stove so that I don’t forget to restart the agitation over again otherwise the dye bath drains out and the colour is not as intense as if it soaked longer. The constant motion of the washer helps the colour dye evenly.
3~ After the dye has had a chance to penetrate the fabric thoroughly and as intensely as I like, I add the Soda Ash Fixer. I use about a cup and a half, which is again less than suggested. Dissolve Soda Ash in some hot water and add slowly over 15 minutes to dye bath, while stirring. Don’t pour directly onto the fabric. Stir frequently – 30 mins. for light colours, 1 hr for deep colours. Keep in mind that the end colour will not be as intense as it looks wet and in the dye bath, so go a little deeper than you want the end product.
4~ Rinse out excess dye using cold water. Cold rinses out the soda ash without reactivating it.
5~ I always put it through a regular wash at the end. Et voila!
There is a bit of marbling on the piece I did as there was 5yds of 96″wide and I didn’t keep a close eye on it agitating so it was quite twisted at one point. However, it makes it look a bit more ‘sky’ like so I’m happy with the results.
I source mainly with Dharma Trading Co. out of California. Their prices are amazing, and the custom service and selection is second to none. I have ordered thousands of yards of fabric from them over the last decade and I have never had anything but complete satisfaction. They also provide excellent instructions for using all of their products as well as having an amazing gallery of projects that their customers have created, it always inspires me to try new things and stretch my imagination :)
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