In my last installment on dyeing I wrote about animal fibers. Today, it’s plant fibers.
Plant fibers include cotton and linen. Synthetics generally don’t take dye all that well, at least not when I’ve tried them, so I tend to stay away from them. If your fabric has a small synthetic content, that’s okay, but anything above 25% I would avoid.
The best dyes I’ve found for plant fibers are what are called procion dyes. These are available at dharma trading, where I’ve gotten a lot of dye materials. They have reasonable prices and lots of information on their website.
I used to use grocery store dyes, but I got tired of the lackluster hues, the constant fading, and the lack of color range. With procion dyes, once you dye your fabric, it stays dyed, with no worrying about washing it with other items. There are a million colors to choose from, and the colors just glow. I think you can also use procion dyes on animal fibers, but I haven’t tried that.
The image above is of a patchwork made of self-dyed and commercial fabric (the fabric I dyed is the teal and the lighter orange). And good news! I should have some more to share on that project soon. It’s coming together.
Malka Dubrawsky has a wonderful book on dyes and batik called Color Your Cloth. She also has a very inspiring blog, and she sells her hand-dyed and batiked fabrics and other creations on etsy. Her stuff is very modern and cool.
Another book worth checking out (I discovered it through Malka’s blog) is Surface Design for Fabric by Proctor and Lew. It’s out of print but available used through online outlets. I bought mine through half.com. It’s like a textbook for fabric decoration: dyeing, tie-dyeing, batik, printing. You name it, it’s got it.
Yet another book with information about dyeing and other techniques is Textile Arts: Multicultural Traditions by Margo Singer and Mary Spyrou. This book is an overview of several textile techniques, including batik and tie-dye, with sample project instructions for each technique. I used to check this one out over and over again at the county library when I was a teenager, and now I own it.
This should get you going. I recommend starting with one or two colors to get your bearings first. And as always, dye with an open mind. You never know what your end product will look like exactly, and that’s part of the fun.