Monday, October 20, 2014

and then...the UNEXPECTED happed

It was Oct 20, 2008 when I began this blog ....I did not know then where it might thing for certain, is that I have learned a great deal and continue to do so.  Most of the time it is simply out of curiosity, sometimes it is because I am asked a specific question. Today's post has come about because of a specific question, one that I was asked just last week.
The question was about dyeing fabric. I was asked about the supplies I use, the dyes.....and honestly, I am not quite sure what the dyes I have been using are ( they are old...from the 70s, maybe early 80's) they are a powder, come in a small brown envelope and are made up of very intense, concentrated colour...but I don't really know anything about them...are they "fibre-reactive"...or acid? I dunno....those of you who visit regularly, know that I don't worry about knowing the specifics...I don't get caught up in branding and terminology......I rarely follow instructions....I experiment, play...I "TRY" and from that, I find what works best for me.
The specific question was....can my recent dyeing experiments also be done using Rit dyes? (you know, those little boxes of dye that have been around forever and that can easily be obtained without having to find a specialty shop or order online) I happened to have a couple of boxes leftover from many years ago, back then when I used the Rit dye...I "cooked" it on the stove.....they always worked great that way...but could I use them the way I have been using these other dyes? I set out to find the answer.
This is a long post and photo heavy...BUT there is a surprise ending so if you are interested, come back when you have time to read the whole thing.
I gathered the basic supplies....Rit Dye, pre-washed 100% cotton, Soda ash, a paper mask, rubber gloves, plastic containers, freezer bags, and blue Dawn dishwashing liquid.
I am often asked about the soda can get it in a variety of forms, I found the Tulip brand at a major craft retailer, the Jacquard brand at an art supply store and the big container of pH Plus at a pool supply company...they are all the same thing  (Sodium Carbonate) is much MUCH less expensive at the pool supply store.

Soda ash (different packaging)
for this experiment, I used Rit dye,and prepped the fabric with pH Plus (soda ash)
here is the process I used, I began by soaking the fabric in a soda ash solution, the ratio of soda ash to hot water is 1 cup soda ash/gallon of water............for this experiment I used 1/4 cup soda ash in 1 quart of water as I was only dyeing a few small pieces.
Left it to soak for about 30 minutes.

I use this method to acheive nicely mottled effects....the soda ash pre-soaked fabric now gets placed into freezer bags....the more rumpled and scrunched, the better

Note: when working with the dye powder you want need to wear a mask (you do not want to be inhaling that fine powder)
As you can see, you don't need a lot of the dye powder

 I put a bit in the cup and then add just a small amount of water to create a wet paste....once I have it at that stage, I can remove my mask.

Next I need to add "hot" water, for this experiment, I did not bother to boil it, I simply used the hottest water I could get directly from the tap. What is most important is that you get all the powder dissolved. don't need much. (I did not measure but you can get the idea of volume....those are small sundae cups)

Now, I am ready to pour dye solution onto the fabric in the bags.....just a doesn't need to swim. If you like, you can use a few colours (keeping in mind that complimentaries will make mud) then you squish and squeeze to allow the dye to begin to work its way into the fabric. The more you squeeze the less mottling you will get.

I decided to test one piece by dyeing it without the benefit of the Soda ash pre-soak, it went into it's own freezer bag just having been thoroughly dampened with plain water....I expected that this piece would not suck up as much dye as the others....but....(something VERY interesting and unexpected happens)
Once I feel that I have the dye worked in enough, I seal up the bags.....cover the whole works with an old rag towel and leave it to sit overnight. (I leave it in my laundry room, where the furnace is, so it is in a nice warm spot)
The next day the bags can be opened and the fabrics rinsed....and rinsed and rinsed...(the dye process does use a lot of water) the goal is to remove all of the unused dye..(the fibers can only take in a certain amount of dye...the rest has to be washed away so that you will be left with fabric that will not continue to run/bleed......your goal is for the water to run clear.
I start this process by first rinsing each piece pretty well with plain water, then I use some blue Dawn dishwashing liquid...a few drops is all that is usually pulls out all that dye that did not penetrate the fabric

but wait! isn't working this be isn't working on the fabrics that were pre-soaked with soda ash...I can not seem to get the water to run clear as I normally do...BUT it is working with the lone piece I dyed that had NOT been soaked in soda ash....hmmm strange but as you can see....I am always learning too.

notice that the water is still showing a lot of colour (this was after many MANY rinses)

managed to get to clear water pretty quickly with this piece (the one that was not soda ash soaked)

I don't know why....all I know is that with the RIT worked much better by completely eliminating the soda ash step

here are the dried and pressed pieces

This piece turned out beautifully......even without the soda ash...totally unexpected! click on it for a better look

You can see the nice mottled effects....scrunched and sitting in the bag, some of the fabric is exposed to a more concentrated pool of dye, so you get darker and lighter spots happening..the more "creases" the better the effect..the less you squish initially, the more whites you will have showing....if you wanted a more solid colour you would want to go and squish it a bit every so often in the early stages to cause a more even distribution of the dye.

This is really a super basic method....if you want to delve more into the dye process, and purchase all the recommended supplies and chemicals....go for it...there are a great many books on the subject and of course, workshops, classes, including online classes as well. BUT if you just wanted to try dyeing with just a few basic supplies, without all the up front investment...this is an easy, inexpensive way to give it a go....and as I discovered with this experiment...using the Rit dye, means you don't even have to get the Soda ash.

Perhaps you may try your own experiments.....But please....Do be mindful of safety!...use the mask, protect your skin with rubber gloves (unless you like multi-coloured hands)...protect your work area and your clothing.

Note: I did eventually stop "bleeding" on the problematic pieces....a final soak using a cap full of Retayne  did the trick.  


Daryl @ Patchouli Moon Studio said...

You don't need to use soda ash with Rit dyes, in fact they say NOT to use it as it will not be permanent and you will continue to get bleeding. Rit dyes do need HOT water too.
I found this info online and if you scroll down there is a question about using soda ash with Rit dye, which they say not to:
So that could be why your non-soda ash fabric worked best. Also I find it best to use the Dawn soap to wash your fabric first before dyeing in HOT water because it removes oils, dirt, and whatever is manufactured on the fabric and allows the dye to penetrate into the fibers better, it's similar to using Synthrapol. You can also use the Dawn or Synthrapol after dyeing to remove excess dyes too.

FYI: Acid dyes are used on animal fibers, such as dyeing wool yarn. Acid dyes do not work on cottons, they sort of stain and not dye. This is why you can only dye animal fibers with Kool Aid, because Kool Aid is an acid "dye" containing ascorbic acid.

Fiber reactive dyes are for cotton fabrics and the like.

Experimenting is great, but you should at least know what will work with the material you are using to get the best results. You won't be wasting your time and money that way, LOL!!!!

Calicojoan said...

I learn something every day. I love fabric dyeing and have fought the fight with rinsing. Never thought of using Dawn to get those last dye particles out. I'm giving it a try next time.

Calicojoan said...
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Jean S said...

I think Rit dyes have changed over the years and they are actively promoting their product to fabric artists. Judy Coates Perez worked with Rit dyes on her old blog with lots of formulas for mixing colors with gorgeous results. That information is still available. She used a microwave oven to heat the fabric while in the dye solution for 1 minute. I'm not sure about something that needs to be washed every week, but for art quilts etc. the seem to work quite well. The nice thing is they are not dangerous to use like the the fiber reactive dyes.

Robbie said...

Very interesting post!!! Lots of info too!!! I've not used RIT dyes other than giving my black & blue jeans a 'refresh'!! Thanks!!!

Createology said...

Happy Blogiversary Dear. I am very thankful that you share your experiences so generously. I love the results your fabrics achieved both with and without Soda Ash. Rit dye made it through the "Jerry Garcia" Tye-Dye years. It will probably outlast all of us. Creative Dyeing Bliss...

Debbie said...

OK, I am adding RIT to my shopping list! I really need to try this.....thanks for the great tutorial.

Diane J. Evans said...

Thank you again, Jill -- you're like our own personal Dupont Chemical Company: you experiment for all of us and give us the results so we don't have to go through all the things YOU went through.

I'm pretty sure that I have an article in my archives that says you can do the same thing with the new liquid RIT dyes -- then you don't have to worry about inhaling the powder. Saves your lungs AND your time. If I can find it, I'll send you copy. And the colors are luscious.

What beautiful results you get when you play -- love it!


Copyright Jill Buckley