Dyeing to get that color right

Our guest post today comes from Candy Glendening, a textile, quilt, and scarf designer. Quite the multi-talented lady! For the scoop on what makes Candy tick, she says:
"I am constantly inspired by the color and patterns I see around me. I find that I MUST be making something, and the media that sings to me is white fabric and dye. I dye fabric and then use this fabric to make art quilts as well as items I call “Everyday Art”: bags to carry your stuff, silk scarves to drape around your neck, a holder to tuck your journal in: these are all opportunities to create an item that brings joy to the senses of sight and touch. I also blog about my artistic process."
Dyeing to Get that Color Right
Same Hue on Different Fibers? Not as Easy as You Think!
by Candy Glendening

I dye natural fibers with fiber reactive dyes. Unlike paint, what you see is NOT what you get, the final hue of fabric is never revealed until it’s been washed and dried. Although it’s fine to let the dye do what it wants to do, as a scientist, I like to be able to predict my outcomes! I keep careful records with attached swatches, and years ago, when I was working only in cotton, I created this palette, from two sets of primary color dyes.

Using this allowed me to create all sorts of lovely tertiary colors to work with by using only six different dyes, like this one.
Three years ago I began working in luscious silk, dyeing scarves.

Mixing the colors for the scarves involved a bit of trial & error, where I would start with a color “recipe” from my cotton swatches, but I’d often times need to tweak it before I was satisfied. I now have 20 different color combination recipes I use to dye gorgeous, repeatable, multi-colored silk scarves.

One of my favorite scarves is one I call “Wild Rice”.

But when I dyed cotton with the same mix and dilution of dye I use on silk, I was disappointed.

Last spring I very methodically dyed cotton and silk in the same set of dyebaths to observe how the same combination of dyes would react with cotton & silk. Here’s one page of my results.
As you can see, what gives me a nice even shift of hues on cotton does NOT on silk!

In my ongoing explorations of fabric dyeing, I have now managed to create different recipes for five of my favorite silk color combinations on rayon and cotton that are much closer to the silk hues I love right now. Basically, I have to increase the amount of dye I use on cotton and rayon to match the intensity I get on silk. Also, fuchsia/magenta strike MUCH quicker than blue or yellow on silk, so I have to increase reds on the cotton and rayon to more closely match the silk.I hope you all have enjoyed a peek into a fabric dyeing studio.

Thanks, Rachel, for letting me share!

All photos ©Candy Glendening, 2009