Mysterious, Disappearing Blue Dye

My local surface design group doesn’t meet in the summer months but we had a challenge for over the summer. Each of us was to use surface design techniques on a 2 yard piece of silk. I can’t remember exactly what type of silk it is but it is very heavy and not really suitable for nuno felting. So I decided to try some dye techniques on the silk.

Someone on the forum posted a technique using plastic cups to direct the dye to look like flowers. I couldn’t find the link and hadn’t really paid that much attention to the technique other than you use cups, put the fabric in the cup and pour the dye into the cup. So I decided to try this and go for the look of poppies. The first step with the red and orange dye went very well (sorry, no photos) and I ended up with very large flower like dyed areas on the silk.

The next step was to over-dye to get a green background. I used fiber reactive dyes but the first set of dye had been mixed up at least a month ago. I mixed yellow and blue to get a light, sage green. But the blue disappeared and I ended up with a golden-yellow background.

Green Paper Towel

So I decided to try again and mixed up a new, dark green dye. You can see on the wipe up paper towel above, that it was dark green. So I soaked my silk in soda ash solution for about an hour, laid the silk out on plastic still wet and applied the green dye with syringes. I didn’t really try to make exact leaves as I wanted to keep it fairly abstract. I also added some black dye into the center of my “poppies”. It looked great when I finished. I rolled it all up in plastic and let it batch for 4-5 hours.

Silk - Not Green

But then when I rinsed it out, all the blue in the green mixture washed out. I am back to very little green and a whole lot of golden-yellow in the background. This shot probably shows the most green in the entire two yards of silk. Sigh.

Green on Shirt

This photo doesn’t show the colors well but I used the remaining dye on my work shirt. It stayed nice and green. So it wasn’t the dye. It seems this silk somehow doesn’t like blue. Weird. So back to the “drawing board”. I think the solution is paint. I will use Dye-na-Flow paint on wet fabric to achieve the dark green leaves that I have envisioned for this piece. I’ll let you know how it goes. All these steps I’m sure will be worth it in the end as it will give it more depth. Or so I keep saying to myself.

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34 Responses to Mysterious, Disappearing Blue Dye

  1. koffipot says:

    It’s like the old Pepsodent advert, but they lost the yellow! 🙂
    Good luck with the Dynaflow – I’ve not used it, so will be interested to see how it turns out.
    I tried the cup method with varying degrees of success and have been considering overdyeing a piece I’m not happy with. Often the layering of various processes gives good results.

  2. Lyn says:

    Doh! How frustrating! But keep going – I’m sure you’re right about all these processes adding depth and it’ll be interesting to see the final piece.

  3. Barbara Longley says:

    I recently tried dyeing 3 different fibres purple, at different times, using blue and red food dyes together……..i.e.the food dyes you colour icing with.
    I ended up with pink each time as the blue just would not take and rinsed away. A good job I don’t mind pink!

    • ruthlane says:

      Yes, dyeing is always a challenge, isn’t it? But I can always find uses for what I have dyed even if it doesn’t turn out as planned.

  4. nvukadinovic@gmail.com says:

    Yes, dyeing is always full of surprises but it’s fun though.

  5. zedster66 says:

    The first time I used fibre reactive dyes, I mixed up a nice green, I got some nice results on scrim, so kept adding some cotton thread for lighter shades, but when they were washed, they were all shades of blue! It was my yellow which disappeared. If only they covered all this in Chemistry lessons, I might have liked it even more!

    • ruthlane says:

      Hmmm… I seem to lose blue much more often than yellow. Yes, chemistry would have been much more interesting if it was a dyeing lesson in disguise.

  6. luvswool says:

    Hmmm, dyes can be tricky. Also, wondering if the silk fabric had a coating on it? I’ve recently learned that fabric must be scoured before using natural dyes. Well keep on with it, Ruth!

    • ruthlane says:

      Thanks Cathy – yes, I am sure I should have scoured the silk. But it seems weird that some colors will take but not others. After the first session of dyeing, I ran it through the wash cycle with laundry soap. But I will persevere!

  7. Dyes are definitely tricky. With fiber reactive dyes, I’m assuming you mean procion dyes for plant based fibers like cotton and rayon, some colors will shift when used on silk. Especially the blues.
    Using an acid dye or dynaflow paint will give you more accurate results. Otherwise, just use the jacquard or dharma acid dyes and you will be happy with the results.
    Thanks for sharing your adventures in dyeing.

    • ruthlane says:

      Yes, I used procion dye. I didn’t want to mess with steaming needed for the acid dyes. But it was definitely an adventure.

    • nancyw says:

      Hi again,
      wonder if you used the microwave to set your dyes you would have fantastic, quick results. Use a turkey roasting bag to withstand the heat. Paint your design on the silk, roll it up wet in the bag, (I sometimes cut it open to have more space, and microwave it for about 3-5 minutes depending on your microwave wattage.

    • ruthlane says:

      Thanks Nancy. I don’t have a dedicated microwave for dyeing so don’t use that method. Once I get a bigger studio, I will certainly get a microwave just for dyeing.

  8. Flextiles says:

    Interesting. I remember having problems with acid dyes trying to dye wool blue. Overdyeing yellow with indigo will give green. 🙂 Look forward to seeing the final result!

  9. Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

    I hope you have a good plan for this piece, you’ve certainly invested enough time and effort Ruth. 🙂 Dyeing can be a mystery. I’m not a fan of fiber reactive, but have never had a problem with blue in any dyes. It’s a good thing, blues are my favorite.I’m sure the dynaflow will do the trick.

  10. craftywoman says:

    Being a beginner to dyeing it’s really healpful to read what everyone is saying and to experience your process Ruth, I’m keen to know your next step 🙂

  11. Oh dear, I’m sure the lessons learnt along the way will be useful though. x

  12. The clue could be in the type of silk used. Acid dyeing usually creates more reliable results with many silks.

    • ruthlane says:

      Thanks Gail, I agree it must be the silk type. I will definitely go with acid dyes the next time I dye silk. I don’t have a way to steam a piece this size very easily though.

  13. So far I like your dye job even if its not what you wanted. it must not be the year for blue. It was blue wool someone on the forum couldn’t get to felt a little while ago.

  14. Leonor says:

    Have you found out what the problem was in the meantime, Ruth? How mysterious.

    • ruthlane says:

      Not really Leonor. I think it might be the silk itself didn’t like the procion blue. It dyed fine on cotton.

    • Leonor says:

      I thought one of the great things about silk was that they accepted dyes so well, so this is truly a mystery… I hope you’re at least happy with the results you got in the end, blues or no blues.

    • ruthlane says:

      Yes, silk is supposed to be “easy”. One of the bigger parts of the mystery. I am still going to add more green with paint. More to come!

  15. Pingback: Completing Another UFO | feltingandfiberstudio

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