OK…so I’m working on a new quilt, and nothing on the shelf was quite right, plus I really wanted the sheen of silk for the water. That meant it was time to bring out the dye-buckets and implement some of what I learned in Carol Soderlund’s Think Silk workshop last April. I knew that I wanted deep blue water with glints of moonlight on it, so I checked my dye swatches and found I wanted a color made of Navy dye and a tiny tiny bit of red. In my stock of dyes, I had two containers of Navy, one from ProChem (with hardly any dye in it…not enough really for the yardage I wanted to dye) and one from Dharma Trading, so I used the latter though it was old–there was plenty of it, so if I used a high percentage of dye to water, I could still get the deep values I wanted. Right.
It took a while to figure out what went wrong….I was getting way too much red! I KNEW I was using the proper method to fix the dye to the silk: an acid bath using citric acid (not soda ash as on cotton). I thought at first that the purplish color was because my Dharma navy was old and the red was doing what Procion MX reds do: overpower. So I tried a second dyebath with ONLY the Dharma navy.
So I dyed with ONLY the Dharma Navy, and I STILL was getting purple. Then I noticed that the dye powder, when it touched a paper towel, had RED specks in it! I had thought the Dharma Navy was the same as the ProChem Navy. NOT. The ProChem Navy is a pure dye, meaning it won’t split or “halo” red or any other color, whereas the Dharma Navy is a mix of pure dyes. AH! Light bulb flipped on! There’s nothing wrong with the Dharma dye, it’s just not what I wanted or thought I had–I thought the “navy” was a pure dye, not a mix. Now I know to check more closely!
It took about 2 yards (OUCH, kaCHING) to get exactly the color I wanted. Plus on my first go-round, the print paste or the cold wax resist (which I had used to preserve some white areas for moonlight glints) mix did not want to leave the fabric. I called ProChem’s technical staff (LOVE that business) and spoke with one of the chemists, who confirmed my suspicions about the navy dyes. She told me that the manufacturer had offered the navy mix to them, also, but they wanted the pure dye so folks like me would be happy and not get “splitting”. She also suggested using Metphos, a water softener that is one of the ingredients in Calgon water softener, to try to remove the stiffness I was getting from the print paste and/or cold wax resist. Some of that stiff feeling went aweay, but on another test, I still couldn’t get it out of the silk, so I’m glad that when I got to my last piece of silk, I opted for careful painting of dye!
I also wanted some specific deep-dark hues for another part of the quilt, and my batiks were too contrasty. What to do? Paint! I tried both acrylic inks and Setacolor paints thinned with water and settled on a Setacolor to darken this black-and-charcoal:
And a lighter mix of blue to gray and darken this lighter batik:
Some folks love the hunt for the perfect fabric. Not me. I am too busy and stores are too far flung. And I don’t want THAT much stash! I’d rather get a good selection, then modify when I can and dye my own when I can’t! Next on the fix-the-studio agenda: a deep sink in the basement so I don’t have to dye in the kitchen. The bathrooms are too small, and I don’t want the dye in the food prep area! So if there are any guilds out there that would like to hire me for 2014 and 2015, I’d appreciate the donation to the studio-improvement cause! <GRIN>