Thanksgiving Dye-ning

nrlymrtl sent to me, along with three dozen hand-made tamales (mmm!), two yards of cotton Aida cloth (cross stitch material). So, what do I immediately do with it? Dye it!

(Disclaimer: I’m not responsible for what you do, regardless of whether or not you find these notes helpful)

Whatever you’re dying, it’s helpful to let the fabrics soak for a long time. If you can, wash them in the machine. In this case, I just soaked them in the sink overnight. Soaking the fabrics/fibers ensures that *all* of the fibers are wetted and that the dye can get to them.

I am using professional-grade, commercially-available dye, which means that I do not need to deal with mordant. I am not concerned with exactness, not seeking a specific result, and so will not be overly concerned with weighing or measuring. “Some” and “more” are just fine for today’s efforts. I have used this dye before and know that I don’t really like the colors that I have. My purpose today is to try out dyeing Aida cloth and to use up this dye.

I have two pieces, and so I want to make a pale and a vibrant edition. I have two jars of powdered dye, one in pink and the other in purple. I plan to do pink first with an overdye of purple.

The first batch gets 1 teaspoon of dye powder, and the second batch gets 2 tablespoons. Additionally, I shortchange the dying time by a few minutes for the Pale batch, and prolong the Vibrant batch by a few minutes.

Some tips for dyeing:

  • Patrick Rothfuss’ rules for good laboratory practices apply here: (paraphrased, from The Name of the Wind)
  1. Label Everything
  2. Measure Twice
  3. Eat Somewhere Else
  • I have tools and pans that I ONLY use for dyeing. I wash the kitchen down first, put everything away, as I don’t have  a separate dyeing workshop. No pets in the kitchen today. We have a baby-gate for this purpose. When done, these pots and tools get their own wash in the dishwasher, and the kitchen gets cleaned again, including the floor.
  • Label as I go.
  • When working toward a specific dye goal, measure and make calculations twice, and with my awesome math skills, often three times.
  • I am more afraid of fire than I am of chemical hazard, and so I line the countertop with tin-foil (saved from cooking or warming stuff in food prep) rather than with newspaper, especially as it can nestle underneath the stove coils.
  • I have made a wire rack from a heavy copper wire that I picked up someplace. This gizmo drapes over the edges of the pan so that I can drape the cloth or fiber over it, allowing a partial dye job.
  • You don’t want to use aluminum for dye bath or for storing dyes, but leftover aluminum pie pans and bits of tin foil are great for resting dye spoons and catching in-process fiber/cloth between bathing and dyeing.

Now the results.

The two fabrics, one intended to be pale, the other intended to be vibrant, were not very different while still wet and after rinsing. I have used these dyes before, and know that with as much difference in ratio of fiber:dye, I should have gotten flaming flamingo pink and nearly black purple in the vibrant effort. I also got “steam pockets” (see photo), which is white spots (or original fiber color, in this case, white) resulting from the steam from the dye pot collecting under folds of the fabric and leaching the dye out before it has set.

Lastly, the dyebath was still strong. When you do your calculations right and everything is just so, the dye will be in the *fiber* and not in the bath at the end of the process. This time–not so much. When I have very strong dyebath remaining like this, I save it in jars for later. It keeps for a long time.

These clues make me suspect that this Aida cloth has been treated with some kind of dirt/dye resistant product.

Final score: Aida Cloth 2; Darkcargo, 0. See photo of final cloths after washing and drying in the machine. One has a very faint tint (Pale batch) and the other is…pale (Vibrant batch).

Well, now I know. I’d like to try to hand-dye Aida cloth with natural dyes to sell to stitchers, but it looks like I’ll need some kind of scrubbing agent before dying, which takes away the environmentally-friendly intent of using natural dyes.

Pale fail. Issola, by Steven Brust, for scale. These were pretty large cloths.

Saving dye bath for later.

Steam pockets, leached from where the steam collected under folds in the cloth. Note the vibrancy of the in-process dye vs the final product photo.

Pink dye is completed, now adding the purple. The cloth is draped over the homemade copper wire rack, and the cloth is "sucking" up the purple dye via capillary action.

You're not done until the water rinses absolutely clear. This is the "pale" batch. You can see that the color still have some life to it after rinse and before wash, demonstrating how much NOT dyefast this fabric is.

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