Thursday, September 4, 2008

Understanding fibre content and its importance when dyeing

I am often asked whether I will dye some fabric, or a garment. Always my first question is 'what is the fibre content of the fabric?' Determining the fibre content of a fabric, if not at first obvious, is best done with the burn test (a future blog topic). Once this is established, the query will often cease at this point, that is, if the fabric is of a synthetic nature. I can only dye natural fibres, these being cotton, silk, rayon, linen in the main. I do not dye wool by choice and leave this to the wool experts.
I prefer to dye lengths of fabric, rather than garments. Garments are risky. Firstly, they have folds and seams which act as resists and, if a previously worn garment, any fading, stains or marks will not be eradicated by over-dyeing. Also most garments are stitched with a synthetic thread which will not take the dye and will remain the original colour of the garment.
I keep a swatch book of pieces dyed using Procion MX Fibre Reactive dyes which are my dyes of choice (lots more about these coming up). When dyeing a new colour or combination of colours for the first time, I add additional pieces of fabrics, one being a cotton and usually a couple of silks. When these have gone through an immersion dye process the differences in their final colouring can be quite interesting. Often it would appear that they have all come from different dye baths. It is the fibre content which is determining their final colour. I now know that my purple dye will produce a cerise on silks, and to get that purple I need to use only a navy and a turquoise. Dyeing is definitely not an exact science but it sure is fun!
Here are two such examples from my swatch book. Each show a cotton, silk, silk/rayon velvet and a silk organza.

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