Oh summer, where hast thou gone? The bright mornings and the long evenings, not stumbling to and from work in the dark, and the general piece and quiet of being in a city that seems to lose a significant proportion of its inhabitants over the summer vacation… All gone… Seemingly in an instant. As I’m doing most of my dyeing outside now, it’s probably also coming towards the end of dyeing season and the start of needing the daylight lamp for any fine embroidery work. I think I start to understand why some people are seasonal silk shaders, it’s much easier when you can actually see what you’re doing!
After trying some ice dyeing and really enjoying the results, I though I’d give a try to a combination of speckle dyeing and painting. Normally I tend to dye fibre to spin but it’s a little bit hard to maintain defined spots of colour in the spinning process, plus, while handspun definitely has it charms, there’s a lot to be said for the near perfect regularity of mill-spun yarn.
It’s Spinzilla week! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Spinzilla, it’s a week for burnt thumbs, sore shoulders and empty-looking stashes as you spin as much fibre as you can in a week.
While spinners across the globe eagerly awaited the clock to strike midnight for spinning time to commence, with their piles of combed top and carded batts prepped for the wheel, I was struggling to sleep with what was going to turn out to be a really miserable cold. My fibre stash also better resembled an aimless fluff pile than anything with a plan in mind.
That’s why Day 1 of spinning time turned into Day 1 of fibre prep time…
A common theme of frustration since I’ve started dyeing has been how difficult it can be to get good, informative resources on the hows and whys of certain dyeing techniques. For most other techniques, I have a series of ‘go to’ reference books which I can consult to at least have some idea of what I’m doing but I’ve yet to find something similar for dyeing. Fellow dyers, what is your favourite literature on the subject?
I’d seen in a few places that Procion MX dyes could in fact to be used to dye wools, as well as cellulous fibres and silk. The only thing you needed to change to use Procion MX dyes with wool is that, instead of using an alkaline dye bath with soda ash, you needed something acidic instead.
There was some ambiguity in the sources I’d read as to whether the wool could be left in the dye to react just at room temperature or required steaming, so I thought I’d give up reading and just see what results I’d get for myself.
When it comes to colours, I like a palate that could be described as ‘bright and bold’ or, if you were feeling less complimentary, lurid. Typically, I use acid dyes for silk and wool, partly out of habit, partly because I don’t generally spin plant fibres, so haven’t needed to dye them. However, I’ve had a few people now say that if you want the boldest, brightest colours for silks, then it’s Procion MX dyes you need to use.
Procion MX dyes are a type of fibre reactive dye and as they are out of patent, a lot of different manufacturers now make them. There are a few kinds of Procion dyes, but the MX part of the name refers to the cold reactive dyes that are ideal for dyeing silks, cottons and even wood. Probably the biggest distinction between them and acid dyes is that with Procion MX dyes, you don’t need to heat the dye to get it to fix. You also generally dye at alkaline pHs with them too. (It is possible to use them at acidic pHs on silk but that’s not what I’ll be worrying about here.)
New dyes means new stock solutions, so I started by making up about 5 % dye solutions in a range of different colours. One advantage of acid dyes is they keep very well so you can make up your stock solutions and keep them hanging around in a cupboard until you next need them. Procion MX dyes are not so stable; if you don’t add any acid/alkaline to them, the solutions will last about a week but as soon as you add the soda ash, the dyes start to react much more quickly and will only last a few hours.