Friday, March 26, 2010

Lessons I have Learned about Dyeing Silk

I got married 5 years ago and before the wedding my soon to be husband looked at me and said I don't want to wear a suit/tux.  I responded with so what do you want to wear instead.  he thought about it and said I want to wear a samurai outfit.  so to make Samuari outfits for the groom 5 groomsman and 1 bridesmaid I bought 100 yards of white habotai silk.  I learned a fair amount about dyeing silk at that time.  after was all said and done I still had 35 yards left over  (it was still cheaper to buy the two bolts than it would have to buy it as 70 yards and not have the leftover).  After the wedding the silk got packed in a box and put away in storage where it sat.  Mom is remodeling her house and the box of silk was found the other day.  

while watching my daughter repeatedly dive into the luxurious pile of silk the way you would a pile of leaves in the fall I was thinking well some of the habotai is 60 inches wide perfect to go on the back of a lap quilt and what would feel better than this luxurious silk against you.  and the thin 36 inch wide habotai is semitransparent and if you put it on top of the heavier habotai and quilted it you could get some amazing results with the play of light on the back of a quilt. or adding 2-3 layers of the think habotai on the back could give amazing light play or pieced on top you could get some amazing results.  but as I am trying to finish some quilts backing it is.

So after a trip to get some dye I set about dyeing the fabric.  I was at Joann getting some zippers so I grabbed what they had, which was RIT dye.  I remembered it worked OK but wasn't the ideal dye for silk.  I got some green and some pink dye.  the pink dye came out the color i expected, a  nice rosy pink to go with the pink flower fairies.  so then I did the green batch and the green did not come out anything like I expected.  I totally forgot the rule about the RIT dye which is made for cotton does not always produce the expected color on silk.    I kinda like the muted asparagus green.  but kinda don't.  I was going for a more green less grey color.  There is an specialty art supply store town that carries Jacquard acid dyes, green label silk dyes and Procion MX dyes.   The problem with the art store is it is open regular business hours which is well when I am at work, the reason I didn't go there in the first place.  These acid dyes are made for protein fibers like silk and wool.  I used them in the past for incredibly vibrant results.  The lining of all of the jackets for the wedding was vibrant red habotai.  

Lesson 1) skip the RIT dye and go directly to the correct dye, especially if you are wanting a green or other cool color.
Lesson 2) If you use RIT Dye warm tones come out decently cool tones are hit or miss. greens are terrible.  hard to get them to come out true.  All the colors come out better if you add one cup of vinegar to the dye bath.  
Lesson 3) when you are done dyeing the silk used a hair conditioning treatment on it like you would after dyeing your own hair.  it is a protein fiber and like after dyeing your own hair conditioning it after dyeing gives the fabric some love.
Lesson 4) don't stick you hand in the hot wet dye soaked fabric with out rubber gloves on cause other wise your finger nails will be stained green for days

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