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TOPIC: Where to begin

27 Jul 2009 08:44 #36919

I'm not trying to put myself forward as an expert of step on anyone's toes, so if people would rather have Justin lead a group or wait for a show I can understand.

I dye in my home in less than ideal conditions, so I am not going to have the experience that dyeing thousands of yards of cloth is going to give.

My only thought was that since no one was posting here and I really, really love dyeing, that I'd post what I know.
Last Edit: by Teresa.
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26 Jul 2009 14:07 #36904

Amen to the show suggestion. I've been getting more and more fired up about this and it seems like I'm not the only one. Gloria
Last Edit: by GloriaH.
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26 Jul 2009 05:53 #36893

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I think it would be so interesting to have a show that was all about dyeing fabric.
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Fabric 26 Jul 2009 02:43 #36892

The last 'must have' on your list is fabric for dyeing. After all, that's what we are here for, the beautiful, fantastic fabric. Procion MX dyes work on cellulose fibers such as cotton, rayon, linen as well as silk. They are not the dye of choice for wool or other animal fibers.

I'm going to assume that you are intending to dye cotton. What kind of fabric you use will depend a lot on what you get for a final product. In general I use PFD fabric (prepared for dye) that I purchase in bulk. However Melissa has an interesting set of tests on her site that indicate buying special fabric may not produce the best results. I have not experimented according to her methods, so I'm passing this along just FYI.


If you don't buy PFD fabric, you may want to scour it.

So just what does that PFD mean and what the heck is scouring and why do you have to do it?

During the final phase of fabric manufacture it's usually treated with some chemicals. This finish may make the dye take unevenly or produce unpredictable results. The process of removing this finish is called scouring. (PFD fabric does not need to be scoured). All that means is washing it in hot water with Synthapol.

You may also read that mercerized cotton dyes deeper and richer colors. Mercerized means the cotton has undergone a process with caustic alkalki that will give it those results.

There is a lot of talk on whether or not you want to buy PFD fabric and whether or not you need to scour it. I'm all for experimentation and finding what works for me and I encourage you to experiment if you like that sort of thing. However if you could not bear to have a dye batch come out ruined because there was some odd chemical reaction, then perhaps you can see the extra effort or cost of having PFD fabric or scouring your own may be worth it.

Remember that you are ultimately going to sew with this fabric, so make sure that what you are using looks and feels like something you want to use. Most of the larger places will send you a sample of their cloth for a minimal price. However, keep in mind that the dye process itself changes the hand on all the fabrics I've ever dyed. So, you won 't be able to tell exactly what you will get from an undyed example.

Fabric is my largest cost. If you really get into dyeing you can easily run through a LOT of yardage quickly. Dharma's PFD cotton ranges in price (if you buy an entire roll it is cheaper).


Your local quilt shop may carry PFD fabric or fabric suitable for your dyeing experiments so you may want to check their pricing.

Although these posts assume you will be dyeing white fabric that has been prepared for dyeing in some fashion, you may find later you want to experiment with overdyeing. One of the greatest things about doing the dyeing is there is no bad fabric, only opportunities for more play.
Last Edit: by Teresa.
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Dyes and Chemicals 25 Jul 2009 23:03 #36891

In addition to the containers, measuring cups and paper towels you will need there are dyes and chemicals necessary to do the dyeing.

Procion MX dyes are sold by several companies and most companies have their own color names and numbers. So, for instance the manufacturer color Red MX-5B is sold as #12 Light Red by Dharma and #305 Mixing Red by ProChem. Paula Burch has an excellent chart on her site that has the various names and numbers for the different dyes.


This chart will also show which dyes are "pure' colors and not mixes of two or more dye colors. For a moment here I'm going to digress and explain why this might be important.

Dyeing is both an art and a science and you may find yourself leaning more towards one aspect of it than the other. If you want to create predictable effects and create repeatable dye recipes you have to be very precise. The amount of dye powder, temperature of the water used, the 'hardness' of the water, and possibly even the phase of the moon will affect the dyeing process. (Okay I'm kidding about the phase of the moon...maybe.) If you want repeatable results you have to be able to repeat.

On the other hand, you can decide to create one of a kind pieces that you create in the moment and you don't care if you can reproduce precision is not necessary.

Obviously you can also be somewhere in the middle and learn a bit about what dyes are likely to produce what colors and hope for the results you expect while still being spontaneous.

If you are leaning more towards wanting to reproduce your results, you will want to work with the 'pure' dye powder colors because results with the mixed colors will be unpredictable. If you are fine with unpredictable results you will be able to use a wider variety of dye powders.

The price for the dye powders vary by color. Dharma's current prices vary between $2.95 to $5.95 for 2 ounces. So how much the dyes cost will depend a lot on which colors you purchase. (I don't work for Dharma, I just buy from them and thought this would give a good price estimate for people interested in dyeing.)

In another post I'll talk about exactly which dyes and how much to purchase to start out.

You will also need soda ash to change the PH and complete the dye process as I've mentioned in a previous post. Dharma currently sells soda ash or $1.69 for 1lb.

After you have completed the dyeing, Syntrapol is used in the wash to help remove excess dye. Synthrapol is currently selling for $4.09 for 16 oz. (Dharma also sells a non-toxic Syntrapol replacement called Professional Textile Detergent. This sells for $3.75.)

There are two other chemicals you will often see listed as necessary, Urea and salt. Depending on what you read, you may or may not choose to use them. Urea is used to basically make water wetter, it allows more dye to be dissolved in a smaller amount of water. Salt is used by some to increase the depth of color and patterning. I don't use either though I have experimented with urea and intend to do some experiments using salt.

In addition to the chemicals you will need cloth to dye. I'll talk next time about cloth.
Last Edit: by Teresa.
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25 Jul 2009 22:51 #36890

You started this thread at a very good time. While we were away for a few days, my husband and I picked up some supplies I was missing. Now I can start playing again! :D

Jean in Windsor, ON

Windsor, Ontario, Canada
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How to Dye 25 Jul 2009 18:00 #36885

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Theresa -- please keep us informed with the dying process your information has been great. I am hoping to give it a try in the fall, but your infor and the links are very helpful.

Sharon in Colorado
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25 Jul 2009 10:30 #36879

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I bought some cheap measuring cups that were plastic and after one use--don't know if it was the soad ash or what it was--they cracked. I think the more flexible plastics I have used worked better. Just thought I'd let you know.
Blessing from Northwest Indiana, USA
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25 Jul 2009 10:25 #36877

I say keep everything on one thread. That way if you want to go back and look at something again you don't have to remember what thread it was on. Dyeing is something that I'm interested in also.
Last Edit: by Franceslovesfabric.
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25 Jul 2009 10:12 #36874


General consensus is that the dye exhaust bath is safe to be disposed of down a normal city drain. However remember that for a septic system there is a certain balance you want to maintain to keep the bacteria alive and the dye bath has the PH changed with the addition of soda ash. You can neutralize that with the addition of vinegar. If you know what PH is safe, you should be able to do PH testing of the exhaust bath and adjust the PH accordingly. Here is some information from Dharma's website


As to cost, I'll address that in my next big post about the chemicals and such.
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25 Jul 2009 09:35 #36871

Boy Theresa, this is exactly the information I was interested in. Right now the biggest question is cost. How much investment is there in the dyes and soda ash etc. It sounds like the other equipment is minimal. The other VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION is what do you do with waste. We have a septic system and I would be dead meat if I messed up the drainfield. If you keep up with the hints and tips, this seems like a good place for them to be. Thanks, Gloria
Last Edit: by GloriaH.
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25 Jul 2009 09:24 #36869

So should I keep all the posts on this in the same thread or will it get too long? I really think it's important for people to post questions they might have. If I do separate threads for each section people would be able to add questions and comments on that one.

So what do you all think?

This process is definitely messy and time consuming. It surprised me that I ended up loving it so much. When you factor in all those things, it's definitely not for everyone.

RIT dye uses a different process to dye the fabric. From what I understand of the differences, RIT is more like staining the surface of the cloth, this is why it fades with washing, while the Procion MX dyes actually are bonded to the fiber and so do not dramatically fade.

I haven't used the RIT dyes, so I can't say if they are less mess. I'm a big proponent of using whatever methods you find helpful and whatever speaks to you.
Last Edit: by Teresa.
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25 Jul 2009 08:32 #36865

I love using hand-dyed fabric but I think that if I got into fabric dyeing it would only take away time I have for quilting. Plus I really don't have anyplace I can be messy and I am concerned about using the chemicals.
That said, a recent article in Quilting Arts magazine discussed using RIT dyes with great success. Has anyone used this technique and would this be a good place to start?
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25 Jul 2009 07:12 #36864

Thanks, also, Teresa! I am fascinated by the whole process. But I'm not sure that I want to take on yet one more obsession. Not at the present time, anyway!

Maggie in E. Central Illinois
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