Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Joy of Dyeing Silk. Part II: Commercial Dyes

by Susanne Guirakhoo of enchantedhue

Commercial fabric or silk dyes give a different dimension than natural dyes. The colors are more vibrant and more stable than some natural dyes, and different techniques can be used.

As with natural dyes (as explained in Part I), patterns can be achieved by different Shibori techniques: binding, stitching, folding, pressing according to ancient Japanese traditions.

The soft texture of silk lends itself to aquarelle painting. Silk paints are thin liquids and will flow and melt into the silk, feathering out gently. To prevent the colors from migrating too far, a hair dryer can be used to quickly dry the paints and stop further flowing.

Another traditional technique is called Serti or gutta resist. Gutta is a rubbery, solvent based resist that is applied with a squeeze bottle. Gutta comes in black, gold, silver, and clear and is used to outline the pattern, which can be very detailed, on the silk. When it is completely dry, silk paints are applied to the outlined areas. Instead of gutta, I prefer to use water-soluble resists, which are easier to use and can be tinted to any color. The finished piece can have a look similar to stained glass.

And then there are less precise techniques that yield more organic patterns.

Commercial silk paints can be manipulated in a number of ways while still wet. Salt, grains of rice, or small beans soak up some of the paint and give starburst-like patterns. Alcohol drops lighten the color. Water sprays dilute and give the appearance of soft waves.

Snow dyeing is one of my favorite dyeing methods. The serendipity of the outcome is truly fascinating. A piece of wet silk is put on top of a grate set on a container, piled high with snow, and dye is generously drizzled on top of the snow. The snow slowly melts, letting the dye hit the fabric at different times and concentrations. Rate of melting, temperature, amount, solution, and even color of dye influence the pattern. My most surprising piece was achieved with only the color black. During the melting process, the black was fragmented into its individual pigments, resulting in muted reds, blues, and browns.

The next technique to experiment with? Sugar syrup resist!

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