Lessons learned

This week's dyeing session taught me some lessons. First of all, that I shouldn't brag about vibrant colors before the fabric is dry. Annatto wins the day with its amazingly bright orange, and the avocado + iron grey almost didn't lose any intensity in drying. But turmeric... oh, turmeric.

Top to bottom: turmeric + soda (red), annatto + soda (orange), plain turmeric (yellow), avocado + iron (grey).

Top to bottom: turmeric + soda (red), annatto + soda (orange), plain turmeric (yellow), avocado + iron (grey).

Turmeric really doesn't hold up well. Especially the turmeric + soda combination, which looked amazing when wet, lost a lot of its vibrancy. I was worried about lightfastness as well, so I decided to put the fabric out in the sun and see how much color it would lose. 

The darker bit on the right was covered to preserve the original color.

The darker bit on the right was covered to preserve the original color.

The color change you see above happened in less than an hour and a half. I'm sure that they would have been bleached even more if I'd left them out longer. So although the color transformation from low-pH yellow to high-pH red by adding soda to the turmeric is quite amazing and dramatic, it's not a very good substance to dye with. The yellow didn't hold up very well either, as you can see in the topmost picture: it's rather pale next to the annatto, which didn't lose much color even in the full mid-day sun.

Of the other dyes I tried last week, I was rather happy with the shades of sandalwood. The ones I left in the dye bath for about four days turned out a lot darker than the ones I only left in there for a few hours, but unfortunately, the sandalwood + iron developed some brown stains. Another lesson learned, I suppose. I don't know if the darker color is due to the longer soaking, or simply because the dye bath was already mostly spent when I added the second piece of fabric. Also, after reading that I should use about a 1:1 weight ratio of sandalwood to dry fiber (which I didn't, I would guess that it was about 1:4), I might buy some more and try to achieve a more intense color.

Sandalwood + iron (soaked 4 days with the iron, note the rusty-looking stain); sandalwood soaked for a few hours with the iron added only at the end; plain sandalwood soaked a few hours; the same soaked 4 days; "everything-mix" soaked for 4 days.

Sandalwood + iron (soaked 4 days with the iron, note the rusty-looking stain); sandalwood soaked for a few hours with the iron added only at the end; plain sandalwood soaked a few hours; the same soaked 4 days; "everything-mix" soaked for 4 days.

After I had such amazingly bright dye baths left over last week, I didn't want to pour them out just yet. So I added them all together: annatto + soda, sandalwood + iron and turmeric + soda. You can see the result in the above picture on the right. Not a particularly interesting color by itself, but goes well with its "family". The dye bath still looked like it could give me some more color, so I added more fabric which came out about the same after two days of soaking.

About half my studio looks like this.

About half my studio looks like this.

Last week, I mentioned tree bark. I had collected both oak bark and the bark of a tree which I guess was beech, but I'm not entirely certain because I didn't have any leaves, only logs. I soaked both separately in cold water for about two weeks. They started to smell very interesting (ahem) and developed a slimy, yeasty layer on top... yum. I just strained out whatever I could and threw in the fabric. 

Since I had gotten a nice reddish-brown from oak bark in the past, I expected something like that again. But both barks didn't do much at first, least of all the oak. I added some soda to the beech, which did seem to make it adhere to the fabric a bit better... it left a pale greenish yellow, not bad for an experiment, but also not very spectacular. So pale, in fact, that it didn't photograph very well. 

The oak was refusing to do anything at all, so I decided to heat the entire dye bath with the fabric and see if that would make a difference... it didn't. Next try: iron again. This definitely changed things. The dye bath turned grey, and so did the fabric. A very different grey from the avocado, and quite lovely.

Oak + iron, on the left; and some varieties of "everything-mix" and weak sandalwood on fabric that had a slight tinge of color from previous dyeing experiments.

Oak + iron, on the left; and some varieties of "everything-mix" and weak sandalwood on fabric that had a slight tinge of color from previous dyeing experiments.

Below, a picture of all my dyed fabric so far. Quite a nice palette, I think, but apart from the annatto orange, not very vibrant. And the blue and green on top of the left pile - what's that, you might think? Well, that's for another post, because there is a lot to say about that particular color!

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