I've had Ann Johnston's fabric dyeing book, Color by Accident, for years. Even though I'd been dyeing for a few years, part of that time as a business, I was still curious about how others went about it, always wondering if there was a better way. I had quite a bit of dye concentrate left over from my snow dyeing experiment and had been thinking about how to use it up before it lost its oomph out in my cold cold garage. I pulled several other books on dyeing as well, but settled on Ann's because my concentrate was mixed pretty much per her instructions and her method includes applying the dye before adding soda ash. The way I've always done it is by adding dye concentrate to the soda ash solution, then quickly adding fabric. I'd seen side by side examples of both methods and there definitely was a difference. Ann's method looked simple enough, plus it is the one used by one of the members of my art group. I decided to use it to experiment with over-dyeing these two half-yards from my dye session last August. I'd been unhappy with the uneveness of the dye saturation, so they were prefect candidates.
The set-up is simple enough: wet your fabric in a little water and then arrange it in the bottom of a bin or other container. I just "scrumbled" each piece in its own bin plus added a third half-yard of white fabric to a jar to act as my control factor. Next pour the dye concentrate which has been slightly diluted over your fabric. I had golden yellow and basic red which I squirted over the fabric in pretty much equal amounts. I combined what was left in a single bottle and poured it over the fabric in the jar. You can press on the fabric as much as you want to help distribute the dye or just leave it alone. I really wanted to leave it alone, but was worried about air pockets and the like so tried to hit a happy medium between nothing and too much. Really wanted to see a variety of colors in the end.
After the fabric has soaked in the dye for about 15 minutes (note I bought a new timer just for this!) it's time to add the soda ash. This is extremely low water immersion dyeing and I admit to being skeptical about the half cup of soda ash solution being enough (my freezer bag method require 2 cups per bag). I'd brought my liquids in from the garage the day before to get them up to room temperature, but as I mentioned before, I barely keep my house at that minimum temp so also invested in a thermometer to check my water temps. I warmed the solution in the microwave a bit before pouring it over the fabric. Again, I felt compelled to press down on the fabric to make sure the soda ash got distributed, even though I really wanted to leave it all alone. That's it - now the fabric sits for 1 to 4 hours before processing. I waited the full 4 hours.
I have to say I'm really happy with the results! The one on the left started out blue and had the most variation in colors and the one on the right started out lavender, bits of which showed through here and there. So much interesting texture going on, showing through from the first dyeing.
I didn't have a sense that I was doing more manipulating of the lavender piece but it came out the most solid. I believe I pretty much covered it with the golden yellow before adding the basic red.
The over-dyed blue is by far the most interesting of the two. Seen as a whole it is not a particularly pretty sight, but it has some great areas and so much underlying texture.
I was counting on the golden yellow turning some of the blue to green, and you can see that happened in a few places. I sometimes say I can't bear to cut into some of the specialty hand-dyes, but I will have no trouble cutting into these.
As for my control piece, the one that was to show me what the dyes would look like without the modifying of the underlying color? Well, I wasn't sure where that piece of fabric came from, either inherited from my friend's or from my mother-in-law's stash, but I was certain it was cotton. Apparently it is a cotton blend as it came out a lovely sherbert chambray. I burned a few threads to confirm and yes, part burned to ash while the rest clumped into a hard ball. You can pick out the threads in the weave that picked up more dye than the rest in the closeup above. I really quite like it.
I had loosely pleated it, then twisted and coiled it before stuffing it into the jar, but there was practically no resist pattern as a result. This was about the only spot that showed any texture. I'm not sure why that was.
You may note that this method does not call for salt, something I have always used. When I was doing my snow-dyeing research, I noticed on the Pro Chem site mention of the fact that salt was not necessary. That reminded me of an internet friend who had run an experiment to see if there was any difference between using salt and not using salt, and she could not see any. Now here was Ann not only omitting salt but explaining that it can actually keep dye from getting into the fibers when using so little water to dye. Apparently the use of salt IS necessary if you are using the old methods requiring lots of water, lots of dye and lots of stirring, the salt helping to pull the dye in. But remove all that water and the chemistry changes. I can't say I'm sorry to no longer have to add salt to my dye bath.