Friday, June 25, 2010

Process Pledge: Acid Dyes and Silk

I usually dye my silk fabrics with procion mx dyes, just like I dye my cottons. While these dyes are quite effective, there are a few colors I just cannot get. All of the unobtainables are DARK. No black, dark forest green, navy, or really dark blues or purples.
I can apply these dark colors to the silk and they just come out medium, or worse yet, bright!

So it came down to trying a different route, when a favored old customer needed dark dark silks. I decided to use acid dyes.
Here is my collection. Some are Jacquard, some are Pro Chem and some are from Dharma. All are ancient. In this case age doesn't matter. They are all in powdered form and inert. I also have some Easter Egg dyes which come in pellets, and some food coloring and Kool Aid. They all work the same way. The fiber must be protein, like wool or silk for example and the agent or catalyst is plain old white household vinegar.

If you look at my tutorial on dyeing wool yarn in 30 minutes or less, you will see that I am going to do something very similar with silk fabric. I have mixed up some black, royal blue, purple, green and blue-red acid dyes.
I use plain water (1/2 cup) and just a speck of dye. When I say speck, I mean a tiny bit on the end of a toothpick. Acid dyes are just so strong that I have a lifetime supply considering how much I use per piece of fabric. I can always add a bit more dye to get a more intense color, so I stick with tiny bits until I am happy with the resulting solution.
The silk fabric is a half yard length, and it is presoaked in vinegar and water, about 50/50. Then it is wrung out, pleated into a long column and placed on a long sheet of plastic wrap, on my kitchen counter.  With a plastic spoon I ladle on the dyes, one color at a time and press the dyes into the fabric, just as I would with the yarn. When the fabric is completely saturated with dyes, the plastic wrap is folded over the fabric, and enclosed like a package and placed in a microwave safe container (gladware, in this case) and microwaved for 1 minute.
After a minute I check to see if the package has ballooned up from steam, and if not, another minute in the microwave and it will be.
I am careful to let it cool before opening the package, as the contents are boiling hot. Because the silk was folded or pleated there is a small amount of tie-dye patterning, but because the colors are so dark, it is negligible. The resulting wash out yielded the really dark saturated color I was trying to achieve.


  1. Hmmmm I'm wondering now if my fiasco with acid dyes occurred because I used too much dye. I used as much as I would with MX dyes on cotton, and they glooped up something fierce. I swore I'd never use them again.

    Do you find that you need to dissolve them in very hot water?

  2. You make it all seem so easy. But I love the results you get.


  3. Melody - I keep seeing art quilts that are made by fusing strips 'torn' from fabric, rather than cut. How do you tear fabric other than with the grain from selvege to selvege?


  4. This will not have effect as a matter of fact, that's what I suppose.


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