A while back I mentioned that I learned the weekend Liz was here that I shouldn’t dye in my washing machine. *How* I learned that was actually a lot more fun than it might sound.

As I am a knitter, my mother is a seamstress. But, as I actually don’t have an overwhelming stash of yarn, she does of fabric. So much so that dad has complained that she needs to use some of it up before she acquires more. Which found me some time ago sitting with her going through both patterns and fabric so she could make me some new work clothes. Among the fabric was some white linen that she’s purchased to make me a couple of underdresses, but as I’ve been on somewhat of an extended hiatus from the SCA, we decided to repurpose the linen for other things. After going through all the fabric, we decided that the linen would be used for some light jackets and that there was enough there to make two jackets, and that I would take the white linen and dye it something more appropriate for my wardrobe.

I’ve been wanting to play with vat dyeing for awhile, and with more modern dyes, so off I went to Dharma Trading to order some dyes appropriate for use with plant fibers. I got three colors (Oxblood Red, Royal Blue, and Moss Green) of fiber reactive procion dyes and the soda ash fixative and then .. waited for company. Fortunately, Liz was just the kind of company I needed to give me courage to make my first foray into modern dyes.

Let me start by saying that it’s dead simple. Dharma Trading has great directions on their website, and it really is pretty much 1-2-3. I started with the Oxblood Red and decided that for the first piece I would do it in my kitchen sink, which was pr’bly not quite big enough, but was easier to keep an eye on for my maiden attempt.

Photobucket (Clickable thumbnails, as usual.)

As I said, the process is pretty simple, and for most of it, the fabric just sits in the dyebath, soaking up the dye. I rinsed it out in the sink until the water ran clear and then threw it in the washing machine to wash out any residual dye.


It was a little brighter than I’d hoped (I really wanted it to stay the rich, dark blood red of the dye bath), but still pretty exciting. A quite run through the dryer and it was finished.


Because the sink wasn’t quite big enough, the fabric and the dye didn’t move around as much as they probably should have, so there’s some non-uniformity in the finished piece – though it’s not as noticeable as the camera flash makes it seem! I don’t really mind that, though and am pretty sure that we can make the finished garments look just fine. Additionally, the process of moving the fabric around using a large metal spoon appears to have put some stress and strain in some places, causes weaknesses in the material.

Fueled by my success with the red, I got a little bold and decided to do the green in the washing machine. And despite all the warnings (of which there are many!), I managed to run the dye bath down the drain after not nearly long enough not only once, but twice. While the fabric just out of the washer was rather pretty, it was very inconsistent and no where near colorfast.


Which was fortunately not too much of a concern since I still had the blue and figured that I could overdye the green and maybe get a nice aqua, or at least a decent blue. Not being brave enough to try the washer again, though, and not wanting to repeat the stress on the fabric from using the sink, it waiting for a few weeks until I found myself with an unexpectedly free afternoon Sunday. I picked up some bins that I thought would be big enough without being too big (they weren’t; I’d go with slightly taller sides next time) and set things to go in the bathtub:


The jar of dye for this color said to use 4 times the recommended amount for other dyes, but when I rinsed it out there was a *lot* of dye still in the bath. I suspect, though, that even with more room to move, the fabric was still not quite free enough to soak up all it could properly as it was still streaked a bit after rinsing (and very definitely blue, not the aqua I thought it might end up having started out green):

Photobucket Photobucket

As with the red, I ran it through the washer and dryer to finish it off, and even though it’s got some lighter and darker patches, they’re again not really as noticeable in person as the flash from the camera makes them seem:


All in all, I’d say it was a successful (and easy and fun!) first attempt at kettle dyeing. I’ll deliver the two pieces of linen back to mom at Easter, along with her socks – finished the first one and will be casting on for the second pr’bly tonight!



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