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No, not football, silly, it's only July. Are you ready for some TIE DYE?

The Asheville meetup is less than a week away, and this time we're going to tie dye, dammit! In my diary following the 4/20 meetup I promised a follow up and here it is, late as usual. OTOH, this is my third published diary in as many days so I'm catching up with my draft list ;)

Follow me below the tapestry for the goods.

Procion fiber reactive dye on 100% cotton, 4/2013

I love fiber arts and working with color. I was eight when I learned to sew, and later made both my senior prom gown and my wedding dress. Knitting, crochet, macrame, cross stitch, embroidery and of course quilting -- I've tried them all.

It's the follow through that gets me. I have the attention span of a gnat. Any creative project requiring more than 24-48 hours to complete has a good chance of turning into clutter before ending up in a box in the attic. Quilting is especially bad for this, as it involves small pieces of fabric, multiple furkids, and ongoing clutter issues.

My first experience with fabric dyes came in 2009, when a friend of mine had a tie dye baby shower. It took about fifteen minutes for me to get hooked on bibs and onesies. The very next day, I bought a craft store kit and some rubber bands, gathered every white, 100% cotton tee in the house, and began experimenting. By the time the dyes were gone, I had a few decent pieces and a grasp of the process.

Tapestry detail
Retail tie dye kits like Tulip use the same type of fiber reactive dyes I do. The difference is, Tulip pre-mixes the dye pigment with a "fixer" (soda ash). Because the dyes are activated as soon as water is added, they have to be used within an hour or two. That's no problem at a baby shower, but if you're doing multiple items and colors, it's going to result in a lot of expensive waste. Let me add that I think Tulip dyes are great for beginners and hobbyists, and I've gotten some excellent results using them as directed.

We'll be using Procion MX dyes, which is the gold standard in fiber reactive dyes. Dharma Trading Company is my go-to supplier; the site has tons of info and tutorials for those who are interested in specifics.

After folding the shirts, we'll apply the fixer and dye in separate steps. Doing it this way offers many more color mixing options and extended potency of the dyes (if kept cool, they'll be good for a week or more.) When you buy dye in bulk as I do, that adds up!

T-shirt detail, 2012
There are all kinds of techniques and effects possible with Procion dyes, but I'll stick to traditional tie dyeing here. The tied items are soaked in a soda ash solution for 20-30 minutes. You don't want to get this stuff on your bare skin, so if you try this at home, long protective gloves are a must! After a good soak, wring them out well and set on a towel or rack to drip dry for 5-10 minutes. Then it's time to dye!

Let's start by folding a spiral. Start with a clean, damp shirt. Turn inside out and place face down on a clean table. Mark the center of the spiral, which is the DKos Asheville logo here.

Spiral fold, step 1
But why, you ask, is she writing on a shirt that's meant to be orange with purple marker? Because washable markers are your best friend as a tie dye artist! Not only do they help guide precise folds, they're great for documenting instructions just like these. I use Crayola markers, and they wash out sans a trace.

Anyway ... time to stick a fork in it and rotate.

Gather the folds into a circle.
Tighten up the folds and bind with rubber bands.
After a good 30 minutes in the soda ash solution, I soaked half this shirt in a strong orange dye for 20 minutes. Then I removed the shirt, watered down the remaining dye, and turned it over for another 20-minute bath in the lighter orange.
After the dye's been applied, it has to sit or "batch" long enough to react with the fabric. At room temperature, that's a good 12-24 hours. But these dyes like to be warm, which considerably speeds the reaction time. If Saturday's forecast of 84F and sunny holds, we should be able to rinse the shirts after a couple of hours. The dyes are non-toxic after reacting and can safely be rinsed outdoors with a hose, or in your home sink.

So, let's have a look at our spiral! Front and back:

I was going for more of a two-tone orange look, but I mixed this orange myself and probably went a little too heavy on the yellow. Or didn't batch long enough. It's still pretty, but next time I think I'll try it with two different pre-mixed oranges, on strong and one dilute. Live and learn -- no one ever said it was an exact science :D

If you're coming to Asheville and want to bring items of your own to dye, here are a few tips:

1. Natural fibers work best. Items should be 100% cotton, linen, rayon, bamboo or hemp. Blended fiber shirts will still take the dye, but the colors will appear "washed out" and may fade over time.

2. Other easily dyeable items include bandannas, scarves, socks, and canvas shopping bags.

3. If you knit, crochet, or do macrame, consider dyeing your own yarn. Hemp, cotton, and bamboo take fiber reactive dye beautifully.

4. Make sure anything you plan to dye is freshly laundered in hot water. New items must be pre-washed to remove sizing that can inhibit the dye.

Hope this has been informative! It's getting late and I'll only be up another hour or so, but I'll check back tomorrow if there are any questions.

Have a peaceful evening!

Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 3:10 PM PT: Thanks so much for the Community Spotlight and many nice comments! I crashed last night after hitting "publish" and have been at work all day ... finally back to catch up.

Since there seems to be interest, I'm thinking of creating a series of diaries on fiber reactive dye techniques. I have plenty of material for more. I know there are crafters groups here, if someone could direct me to the right place I'd be happy to contribute! Again, thank you :)

Originally posted to SteelerGrrl on Sun Jul 14, 2013 at 07:21 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKOMA, DKos Asheville, and Community Spotlight.

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