Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Dyeing Q&A (All from one reader!)

How do you get the very vibrant colors that I see in your quilts and the fabrics that you showed on your blog today? Once my fabrics were washed they were, indeed, very pretty but lost some of their pizzaz. I want BRIGHTS! Is that possible? What am I doing wrong?????

As Caryl Fallert told me in 1989, you have to use a lot of dye. But that is only half the story. Since I don't know what base fabric you are using that makes a difference too. Assuming you are using PFD fabric and want intense color, I use a tablespoon of dye per cup of water (except with fuchsia, which I use a teaspoon of dye per cup.) Direct application (meaning pouring the dye directly on the fabric (3 layers, presoaked and wrung out) will result in the full intensity you desire. And that's only one way.

How about SOLIDS. Mine are nicely mottled, but is it possible to achieve solid color throughout a piece? My goal was to have deeply colored solids for several designs that I have in mind.

One can achieve solid colors two ways. One is flat on a platter with direct-dyeing and second, in a dishpan, pouring the dye directly on the piece of fabric, working it through and then pouring off the excess. I like to work the dye in for a minute, let it rest, work it through again and let it rest, and then finally squeeze out the excess and keep it sealed in a container for several hours, in the hot sun if possible or for four hours at least. It's important that the fabric doesn't sit in dye or you may get darker spots from the puddles.

Would you consider sharing the dye colors that you use and any mixes? I do so lust after your colors.

See my other site for the complete list.  I do mix my own greens mostly and used yellow#1 or #2 or both with cerulean blue and or turquoise or both. It ends up being more than one tablespoon per cup of water to get really vibrant green. For darkest greens add black or cobalt blue. Experiment to see what you like...and so much depends on the fabric you use as your base. And for aqua I use a touch of yellow#1 to the turquoise mix. For lime green I use a touch of turquoise to the yellow #1 mix.

I found James Thompson bleached muslin at my local Wal-Mart for cheap, cheap. What are your thoughts on that brand, especially considering the source?
I did have an opportunity to use it last year, and found it acceptable, but I did not get it from Wally's, but from the store I was teaching. I don't know if the J.T. at Wally's is the PFD version or even if there is one. I will have to buy a bit and try it. A yard will tell me everything I need to know. I have learned not to be too eager until I have run a test.

Found bleached Kona PDF at the local Hobby Lobby, for $4.29 yard. Are you a Kona fan? Have you ever used linen? I have an excess of lovely linen that never made it into garments.

I have dyed both and since I am a fuser and Kona has a looser weave, I don't use it, as it frays. It dyes fine, but some of the colors took much more dye to achieve the desired intensity.

All the muslin in my local Hobby Lobby is perma press. Is perma press a NO-NO?
Yes, do not use perma-press. Ever. Or wash and wear or easy care or anything else but PFD. It will waste your time and money.

Once you have mushed and saturated the fabric in the dye solution, should all the excess solution be drained totally from the fabric?
Yes unless you want darker spots. If you leave the dye with the fabric it will leave texture where it sits. See above about Solids.
Is there a reason to leave the fabrics to dry in the sun for 2-3 hours? Or once they are dry, is that long enough?
Once they are dry, they're done. The dye has completed its job and the fabric is ready to wash out when it is dry.
Is it necessary to use the washer to spin dry the soda ash soaked fabrics, or is it sufficient just to wring them (strenuously) out by hand?

Try it both ways and you will notice a difference, especially with flat dyeing. When the fabric is still wet from hand wringing and dye is applied, more air bubbles form and they have to be smoothed out, which in turn moves the dye away and just makes it lighter. If you spin it out in the washer it is just damp and works much better. With dishpan dyeing it doesn't make that much of a difference. However, you mention having a front loader washer, which I have not used to spin out my fabrics, so I am no help there.

Oh, and FYI, I have a front load washer and I just bit the bullet, sorted the colors and threw them in added bit of synthropol to my detergent, set the washer for warm wash, cold rinse, pre-wash, heavy soil, and 2 rinses. After the initial scare, seeing bright red suds in the washer window, all the fabrics came out beautifully. (I think)

It just dawned on me that you may not have read the directions on the Lazy Dyer site, where I say don't bother using Synthrapol. It is just detergent. Any old detergent will do, usually the cheaper the better. Don't get one with bleach or funny stuff in it.

I hope the questions and answers helped everyone.


  1. Your Q/A always help... EVERYONE! Thanks!

  2. Teresa9:01 AM

    Man oh man. Reading all this is REALLY getting me in the mood to dye!!!!! Thanks!!

  3. You are most gracious in answering all those questions. Very, Very helpful

  4. Tammy Vineyard10:46 AM

    Melody - your the best answering all the questions - but I'm worn out reading it all. I'm going to be lazy and just watch and when I see the color I need/want - I'll save up and buy it. I'm sssooo lazy.... LOL !!
    Tammy Vineyard

  5. thanks alot! Great information. I have done dyeing in jars but would like to try for some solids!

  6. Just a thought--I live in the Southwest where the air is very dry. My fabrics on platters were drying too quickly and not letting the dye solution soak in long enough for rich colors. By covering the fabric on the platters with plastic drop cloths I'm able to slow down the drying time resulting in brighter, richer colors.

  7. Anonymous1:37 PM

    Thank you for answering all those questions! I hadn't thought of them, but then when they were asked I went, Yeah, how 'bout that?! Thanks again.

  8. Judy from Northport4:44 PM

    Your generousity bowls me over.
    Thanks again.

  9. Hi Melody
    The colours on the silks are gorgeous but I would love to see a photo of the cotton pieces you mentioned putting on as a top layer as a comparison. Thanks so much for the great info.

  10. Hi Melody,

    Thank you for your helpful and inspiring answers. I've read such a lot of 'precious' stuff about treating silks with care it's put me off - now I'm enthused again.

    Thank you,

  11. Melody, I'm adding my thanks to your answers. Thankyou for being so generous in answering questions. I also wanted to know how to get those bright intense colours- like the initial reader who posed the question, mine also turn out okay but not as bright as yours! Karen


So nice of you to drop by. I love your comments, and if you would really like a reply, please email me at fibermania at g mail dot com