Friday, July 25, 2008

Dyeing to Sew

I have a new theory. Given that well made clothing in all natural fibres tends to be not only expensive, but also the wrong size; given that I can now sew; and given that fabric and thread can be acquired at a reasonable price at the discount section of the shop; I can save money and get the clothes I want by sewing my own.

This is the theory and I think it might work.

I know, I know, I should save money by buying second hand; however, that is impossible for me at the moment - allergies to the chemicals they use and the scented products worn by the customers and staff. Actually, I have the same problem in the new clothing shops these days which is another motivation for sewing my own.

So sewing it is.

The fabric I like best is undyed cotton.

This is great for, um, PJ's and um, pillow cases, but not really colourful enough for a skirt or a blouse. Don't worry, I have the technology to turn this fabric into 'Marine Violet'.

This dye is a cold water dye which is great for batik or those hot summer days when you just don't want to put on the stove. Apparently, you can even use it in the washing machine. I assume it works via some chemical reaction. At one time I forgot myself and touched the dye bath with my hands (as opposed to rubber gloves) and it made my skin feel all slimy like when it's exposed to bleach. I'm not going to make that mistake again.

The jar told me to use 1 to 4 Tbs of dye powder to 1 lb of fabric. I had 500g of fabric which is close to a pound. The jar only contained about one and a half tablespoons worth of dye, so I used the whole thing. The instructions were quite vague, but I followed them the best I could. At the end of each stage I received an involving phone call, so the fabric got to sit in the dye bath longer than the jar recommended.

After rinsing the cloth in the washing machine (several times) I discovered that 'Marine Violet' dye makes a vibrant amethyst.

I really like how the dye didn't take evenly on the fabric so that it made a semi-solid colour. I don't know why it did this, but I had my fingers crossed that it would.

I am disappointed that the colour didn't come out like the sample in the shop or the colour on the jar label. I was hoping for a rich, jewel, blue-purple, not a vibrant amethyst. Perhaps I need to double the dye amount or the time? Also, from what I've read about dying with wool, the dye bath is suppose to 'exhaust' and the water be quite clear. This was anything but, which could be a symptom of this particular dye. This colour will make a good skirt, so I'm not wholly disappointed, but it is not the kind of colour I would like as a blouse.

The price: $8 for 2 m of fabric, $6 for the dye and other chemicals, $2 for thread = $16 for a skirt or blouse. Considering I usually spend $40-90 on a skirt (yes I know it's a lot, but I'm really fussy about what I buy and where I buy it), I think this is something I will do again. Though next time, I might use a different dye.


Josiane said...

I'm sorry to read that the colour didn't turn exactly like you wanted, but I'm glad you like it anyways, as it is really pretty and will certainly make a lovely skirt! Sewing your clothes is a good idea: not only do you get exactly what you want, in your size, and without the chemicals and high price tag, you also get garments that are of a much better quality than most store-bought ones (even the expensive ones) are. My grandma used to sew many of her (and our) clothes, and when she needed to buy ready-made clothes, she really had trouble finding some that would be up to her standards. Actually, I have a skirt that she made me over twenty years ago, and it still looks like new. Too bad I put on some weight in the last few years, or I'd still be wearing it proudly!

Anonymous said...

If you send me an e-mail message I can send you summary in my own words of a step-by-step process from the book: "Creating Color: A Dyer's Handbook by Judy Ann Walter. Her process in a nutshell has you weigh the fabric in grams, and then figure the dye class based on the weight of a tsp of dye. Dye molecules are not the same. These 2 numbers will allow you to easily figure out how much water, salt, and soda ash you need. Send me an e-mail and I will send you the process and a worksheet to help step you though the process. Good Luck!
Johanna in Wisconsin, USA