Saturday, 18 April 2015

Dyeing for a Sea Change 1 - my experiment in dyeing rayon

I have just had my first experiments with procion dyes. (in contrast to hot water dyeing which I've never been terribly good at)

This glorious yellow rayon was the first solid rayon I found at Spotlight a year or 2 ago. I had great visions of a summery dress, however it is, rather, yellow-gold... Lovely to feel, nice and drapey, but, far to overwhelmingly yellow for a dress for me. So, inspired by all of the indigo workshops that have been filling my Pinterest feed, and Nicki's solar dyeing for One Year One Outfit, I set out to learn a little bit about dyeing.

Rayon is a cellulose fibre, like cotton and linen, so procion dyes with a Soda Ash pretreatment seemed to be the way forward. I found the instruction sheets on KraftKolours' website to be really useful, so I obtained Sodium Carbonate (Soda Ash) from the supermarket, pre-soaked some linen and the rayon, then ventured out to KraftKolour, a local dyeing supplier(This isn't an ad, I have no affiliations with anybody & my only other link to local dyeing suppliers has relocated to the country)

The staff at KraftKolour were fabulous - really knowledgeable and enthusiastic with sharing their knowledge, able to meet me where I was (theory rich with zero experience), and with no hard selling. I purchased the primary colours, and black, and a bottle of Dynazol rinse off. And 2 small sets of perspex resists, a circle and a hexagon.

That the primary red was a pink had perplexed me and I'm still not 100% sure on the chemistry involved, but I've got a better understanding of why; and more importantly, to mix it with yellow for a scarlet or 'paint primary' red.
While looking up 'dyeing recipes', I found the visuals of the Dreamline Textile Painting Recipes  to be very valuable as there were actual colours, and not just names of colours. (Memo to Bendigo Woollen Mills, Malachite is green, not blue, just saying...). My primary colours are closest to the first table (mine are in brackets)
I was aiming for an oriental/eastern red (a brownish red), so I followed the directions for the colour described as "quartz" which were 40%yellow (KK MX8G), 40%ruby (KK MX8B) & 20%turquoise (KK MX4-GD).
Reserving the right to add black (KK MX2R) if needed.
Assembling my supplies
I adore Shibori, the Japanese word encompassing the art of manipulating fabric to resist the uptake of dye, often seen in stunning Indigo blues and white. I indulged, in a beginning manner, my love for all of the Japanese resist dyeing techniques, on my pieces of yellow rayon. Next time I hope to do some stitched resists as well. The tutorial at Honestly WTF: Shibori Dye was invaluable for visualising the steps to take in folding my fabric for dyeing. In choosing which resist techniques I would try, I was particularly inspired by the textile artist Kaizen Journey, such gorgeous patterns using three densities of dark blue, and I appreciated seeing the folded fabric before and after dyeing.

I adore the Arashi 'storm' pole wrapping technique and attempted it on my largest piece. Tightly binding the rayon around the piece of pvc pipe on the bias did stretch it off grain however. It was the quickest and most relaxed of the techniques I sampled.
My test crease = yes I like the patterns created by wrapping it tightly around the pipe
I concertina folded each of my other pieces, ironing each crease and attempting to get them fairly even. I wanted the 2 longest pieces to be near-identical and after concertina folding them again into a square, I clamped them with rectangular blocks of wood. These are the 2 in the most bottom left of the image below. The grey linen is also folded this way - the piece of linen is much smaller than the rayon, yet the finished parcel is about the same.
all prepared and ready to be dyed
For some variety, I used 2 circular perspex 'resists' under the wood blocks for the circles design (the red clamp). The 2nd concertina folds were doubled and it shows in the depth of colour on the finished pattern. I'll stick to folding one layer at a time in future.
The final piece was folded into triangles and a hexagon resist was placed off centre, on one of the triangles' sides, this is the floral design (the triangles above).
The bucket! Awaiting the dye
My dye bath musings led me to the following (possibly wildly inaccurate) concentrations. For a strong colour, 5g dye to 100g dry fabric, 20g dye to 400g dry fabric in 300g tepid water initial concentration, plus 4L. 8g dye needs 100g salt, diluted 1:20. (Yes, I was just thinking/typing aloud)
I poured my dye bath down the wrapped pole and into the bucket where the other fabric was waiting.
After 20min, I added tepid salty water and left them all for another 30min.

I could have left them in the dye bath for much longer, and had initially intended to wrap the pole in plastic overnight, however excitement got the better of me and I placed them in a solution of tepid water and Dyzanol rinse off (2mls/L) for 20min, unwrapping and releasing them from their bindings during this time. At the very centre of the rectangular resist, the rayon was still dry.

L-R: 2xRectangle wood resists, circular resist, Arashi, triangular hexagon & sample grey linen rectangle at back
That I hadn't left them long enough can be seen in the blue/dark tinges of the burgundy dye, especially on the Arashi piece. The different aspects of the mixed dye hadn't finished progressing through the fabric. Fortunately I quite like the effect ;)
I was nicely surprised that the washing machine rinse water (after the initial soaking in tepid water) was barely coloured, such a change from when I've played with dyes in the past!

There was a method to my madness in pre-cutting my rayon, each piece was the right size for a pattern piece for Lily Sage & Co's new pattern The Sea Change Top. In the end, I used the undyed yellow rayon for the top's bands and really like the effect.

Sewing the Sea Change Top was a pleasure, so much so that I did it twice ;) I was a pattern tester for this top as, besotted by Debbies two amazing versions, I knew I really wanted some of them in my wardrobe and volunteered for testing. I've got third top just cut out, so I'll let Sea Change have a post all of it's own soon.

fabulous sleeves and photobomber
I adore the sleeves, both on their own with their perfect breeziness for summer, and as a layering piece over a fitted top for Melbourne's autumn. In regard to questions of potential visible side boobage, I've found that the volume of drapey fabric collapses onto itself in normal wear, so I feel quite secure. I do love these sleeves.
SeaChange is available now at Lily Sage & Co, with a discount this week.

and I am very excited about both Shibori resist dyeing and Indigo vat workshops to be run by KraftKolour later this year!


  1. Your new top is phenomenal. Great job!! I love the sight of your dyed fabric pieces that were being dried under the sun, but you in the finished top looks even prettier. I really love this project.

    1. Thank you so very much Yoshimi for your kind words. ;) I've had a lot of wear from this top already and am quite happy that my playing with dye has made something that I really like. Now if only the rain will stay away so I can get another few photos ... ;)

  2. Oh yes get more photos of the finished top. This is awesome. Something I would never have thought to do my self. But what a result. I really like the plain yellow cuffs as it sets off the dyed fabric. Well done this is great.

    1. As you wished! My lovely DH took pretty pictures on a windy day today, so I've just posted them ;) And thank you. I am really glad I went with the plain bands as well, I still can't see myself in a plain gold top!

  3. I was completely enthralled with your dyeing experiment! I had a go at dyeing (gathered my supplies at the same place) using directions from Sallieoh when I first started blogging. It was more of a paint though - I love the effects of twisting and wrapping the fabric. Although I suspect impatience would be my problem too. And I am in love with what you did with that top. Thank you!

    1. Thank You so very much for choosing me to test Sea Change! I really do love it ;)
      I was torn between painting or soaking, and I must admit that the lovely lady at KK swayed me when she explained that I'd see my results in 1 hour rather than the next day ;)

  4. What a fun experiment! I love how they all turned out. I really want to give some dyeing a go. I have only dyed one thing (a chair cover) and it was just a block colour so not much room for experimenting.

    1. Go for it Kat!! It was so much fun ;) And I've not got a good track record of dyeing solid colours, or using hot dye baths, I'm an expert at blotchiness...

  5. This is fascinating! Dyeing really intrigues me, not that I've had much experience with it. This is so creative - more please! Looking forward to the full Seachange post :)

    1. Thanks Danielle!! Dyeing intrigues me so much as well, I simply had to try so that I knew whether I could do it. It's such an interesting area of textile arts. I'm looking forward to meeting some experienced dyers & soaking up their enthusiasm and knowledge.

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  7. I am SO impressed with your results!! Arashi is my favourite too, although I haven't had any luck with my attempts. Yours on the other hand is the absolute STAR of your experiments! What did you use to bind it to the pipe?

    1. Thanks Jenny - you were my initial inspiration, I still adore your silk scarf! I simply used kitchen string (the non-fluffy twine), it broke a few times, so I knotted it & kept wrapping - I'm not sure what I was meant to use ;)


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