Thursday, February 20, 2014

the post I should have written yesterday, but was unable to...........

Fresh on the heels of the dental work post, here is what I should have written yesterday. I think I was trying to fit too much into one post.

Recently someone IRL asked me how I got started dyeing fabric and or t-shirts. So I thought some of you may be interested in how I got started too. So here goes.

It all started when I started having hot flashes. Now I am not saying I got a little warm and took off a sweater, I am talking about when you are standing on your front porch in bare feet, shorts and a t-shirt to cool off and you are out there for 15 minutes and it it is -20C (-4F) outside. A windbreaker is your winter jacket. You go to Starbucks and order a venti Frappuccino in the dead of winter because coffee is hot. The chair you sat in for 30 minutes is still warm an hour after you got up. Friends insist on driving, because you don't ever put the heat on in your car. In order to sleep you have to have the heat vent closed and the window wide open no matter how cold it is outside. Your husband moves to another bedroom because he is freezing. Wearing long sleeved anything is too warm. You wake up several times a night to change clothes because what little you are wearing is soaking wet. Your mattress is permanently stained from your sweating through the sheets and the mattress protector. I am talking HOT flashes. It was nasty. Not only did I have hot flashes, I was experiencing my own personal summer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Almost everything I owned was too warm, so I went on a search for the thinnest t-shirt to wear at home. I also didn't want to wear a bra so I wanted them to be over sized as well. I found these.

They were exactly what I needed. Cheap, so I could have a lot of them (because of the sweating), v neck and thin. Too thin and sheer to wear without a bra, so I decided I would dye them. 

This is the old packaging for Dylon dyes, and is what I used.
I used Dylon cold water dye available in my local fabric shop and it worked beautifully. If I hadn't found Dylon dye, I would probably have used Rit and would have been disappointed with the results and I wouldn't be writing this post now. Dylon is a fiber reactive dye,  probably a Procion type dye. When I first started dyeing, I would dissolve the dye in water, add salt and a package of  Dylon Cold Dye Fix (which is most likely soda ash). Add the tied t-shirt and follow the instructions that came with the dye. This method is called immersion method.

this is the kind of dye I use for tie dyeing and snow dyeing

I fell in love with dyeing and the fun and excitement of unwrapping your t-shirt or fabric and seeing what you made. It is so much fun.
Finished project
spiral tie dyed t-shirt-this photo from the Jacquard website
Then I wanted to do more, I wanted to do a spiral pattern, which is more than one colour, and I found Jacquard Procion dyes and started dyeing by direct application, in which you soak fabric/t-shirt in soda ash, and apply the dye solution (dye dissolved in water) directly to the fabric. I tie dyed with a friend and her kids, I did group sessions at the assisted living facility where I work. I did it with several friends. I figured out different ways of tying fabric and other resists. I learned a lot.

Then I found a pin on Pinterest (surprise!) that mentioned snow dyeing.Of course that got me interested. Only I had to wait for winter. Which came late this year, and it was beginning to look like it was never going to happen. But eventually it did. Of course I could have used bagged ice instead of snow, but that seems wrong when you live in Canada where we have snow a great deal of the time.

my first try at snow dyeing

A couple of things I learned about dyeing this way.

1. A little of fuchsia goes a very long way. It seems to absorb into the fabric faster than the other colours, so from now on I will use it very sparingly, if at all.

2. Most dyes are made from a mix of dyes and the colours will split when dyeing this way and that is one of the reasons you get such great results. The dyes that are a pure colour don't work very well. Jacquard Medium Blue is pure dye, Cobalt Blue is a better choice, and you will get more interesting results.

3. This isn't my revelation, but was mentioned casually in someone's blog post. When you are dyeing whatever is your primary goal (in my case t-shirts) throw something in the rack underneath to catch the excess dye. I used sheets that I was originally going to use for muslins. I still might. Muslin's don't have to be white. You might get something really amazing.

4. It is impossible to control the results, for instance I did one t-shirt I love the first time around, I tried to duplicate the results the second time I snow dyed. Not even close. So, let go of any control freak tendencies you may have when you do this.

5. Wovens take the dye differently than knits, and therefore have a more delicate look than knits, and the finer the fabric the more interesting the results. I have done 8 t-shirts, 1 was a slub knit (was a little coarse), 2 were fairly fine knit 95% cotton 5% lycra, the other 5 were the Hanes t-shirts mentioned above.  Here is a close up of 4 types of fabric.

6. If you are going to use one container like I did above, all the colours you use should "go" together, because some dye will go where you don't want it to, guaranteed. If you want purple on one t-shirt and orange on another, use different containers and keep them well apart when you are applying the dye.

7. Use caution when using dyes, always wear gloves and when applying the dyes in dry form, wear a mask. You never know if or when you may develop an allergic reaction to a dye. Be careful.
If you get dye on your hands (for whatever reason, no judging, gloves do break) using a pumice stone will help remove the dye, so will washing dishes, sometimes lots of dishes. Believe me, I know.

The sheet is on the top, the slub knit on the left, cotton/lycra  in the middle and the Hanes t-shirt on the right
This photo hasn't  been resized so the file is huge, so you will be able to biggify it to see the details

My Pinterest dyeing board

These websites are great fabric dyeing resources. The first one is what got me started on snow dyeing.


  1. WOW...what a great post on dyes and techniques and what not to do! Thank you for such complete information and inspiration, Laurie! Hope your mouth is healing from the dental work!!!

    1. This post is probably more for me than for anyone else. It will come in handy next winter when I do this again and I don't have to relearn it all again. As Einstein said, "never memorize something you can look up".

  2. That's super cool. I really like how the sheet turned out. I suppose that highlights how... random the results are going to be.

    1. Yup. Completely totally random. That's part of the fun.