Friday, July 23, 2010

Dyeing with Procion Dyes in the Washer

Procion dyes are for dying plant fibers such as cotton, bamboo, linen,..... they are fixed with soda ash (aka washing soda) and don't need high heat, although some darker colors can be achieved with higher temperatures. These are instructions to be used in a top-loader washing machine.

Dharma Trading Company had a huge number of procion dyes available in any color imaginable so it is really fun to take a white or natural fabric and change it over into some fabulous new color!

There are a lot of things you need to work with procion dyes to achieve the best possible dye job however you don't need them all in order to get the dye on the fabric.


-Procion dyes (buy at Dharma Trading company or your local Art store)
-Plant based fabric (cotton, bamboo, linen,...)
-soda ash (called washing soda at the grocery store)
-urea (optional, buy at Dharma, helps to get more even dye jobs and more intense turquoise colors).
-Calsolene oil (optional, buy at Dharma, helps dye dissolve for less uneven results).
-Synthrapol (you can use dish detergent but synthrapol has no dyed or fragrances to stick to your fabric in place of your dye)
-non-iodized salt (necessary for dark colors - buy from an animal feed store)

1) Wash all fabric in warm water with synthrapol or dish detergent.

2) While the fabric is washing mix up your warm urea solution. Mix 1 tablespoon of urea in 1 cup of water. Use warm water and not hot. Hot water and urea make toxic fumes. It is a good idea to measure your urea in a ventilated area or wear a dust mask. The urea will dissolve fairly quickly if you give it a good stir. If you don't have any urea, skip this step.

3) Mix up your dye solution. I usually use 1 tablespoon of dye per yard of fabric but you may need more or less depending on the weight/density of your fabric and how dark you want it to dey. Some of Dharma's dyes specify that you need to add more depending on the color.

Place the dry dye into a container and add 1 tablespoon of Calsolene oil. Fill the cup with just enough hot water to wet the dye and mix into a paste.

4) Add the dissolved urea to the dye and stir until everything looks dissovled.

5) Make the soda ash solution by dissolving your soda ash in water. I usually use 1/3 cup soda ash in 2 cups of water per yard of fabric. Dissolving the soda ash in water is an exothermic reaction, this means heat is created and released, so don't be surprised! You have to stir for a while to get it to completely dissolve.

6) When your fabric is done washing, take it out wet and store it somewhere clean.

Turn your washer to the longest setting on warm and fill the empty washer. Add 3 cups of non-iodized salt per yard of fabric. The salt is necessary to achieve dark colors, you can omit it for lighter shades but you simply cannot get dark colors without it. You can buy small amounts of non-iodized salt at the grocery store but it is far far cheaper at an animal feed store.

7) When the washer is full, pour in your dye mixture and let it stir for 1o minutes. Set your oven timer so you don't forget and let the dye drain out of the washer.

8) When the timer goes off put in your wet fabric and set back the washer so it doesn't empty on you and you loose all your dye. Set the timer for another 10 minutes.

9) When the timer goes off again, set back the washer. Push the fabric to one side and add the soda ash a little at a time. Pour the soda ash into the washer as far from the fabric as possible and stir the water a bit before turning on the washer to make sure it doesn't splash up against the fabric, it will leave dark spots if it does. Set the timer for 3 minute increments until all the soda ash solution is added. Set back the washer again if needed. Set back the washer and set the timer for another 10 mintues after all the soda ash is added.

10) Keep setting back the washer and resetting the timer so that the fabric stirs with the soda ash for at least 30 minutes. Don't forget that timer or you will forget to turn the washer back and all the dye will go down the drain! ack!

11) Let the wash continue on its cycle and allow the dye to drain away.

12) When the washer has finished it's cycle wash the fabric again in synthrapol and do an extra rinse. If you are dyeing a very dark color consider doing another complete wash to insure all extra dye is washed away.

13) Dry in the dryer and enjoy your lovely new fabric!

Here I dyed black (well really it came out a dark charcoal), better blue green, and maroon brown on cotton french terry for sweat pants for the boys.

And fuschia red and lilac on cotton velour for Shiloh. What rich colors!!! I love it!

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