Resorting to the washing machine

I did an experiment last night for a solid color dye on 5mm silk in the washing machine.

1. Used the lowest water level setting for one 3-yard piece, just to see if it would work.
2. Used Jacquard’s powdered acid dye. This turned out to be a bit of a challenge. The instructions for this dye say to use “enough water” for your fabric, but then they give dye amounts per pound of fabric. One silk veil… weighs around 40 grams. That’s maybe a 10th of a pound. From experience I know that you can’t just divide the indicated amount by 10 and still get a strong color. Dye just doesn’t work on an absolute scale like that. So I did not try to measure out 1/10th of 2 oz of Scarlet (recommended amount). Instead I went with about 5/8 ounce.(Because that was all the red dye I had.)
3. Used citric acid solution instead of vinegar, 1 T to a cup of water.

I have to say that it was rather refreshing to let a washing machine dissolve my dye for me. (Again, Jacquard’s recommendation). I would never have dared do that with a fiber reactive dye. I let the silk agitate in the hot water (handwash cycle) for about 12 minutes, then reset the machine to the beginning of the cycle and let it run. Then I ran it through on warm water with Synthropol to take out any excess.

The result? Well, pre-ironing, it looks to me like the color is pretty smooth, so that’s nice. But I sometimes don’t see color problems until I iron a piece — cautiously optimistic there. I seem to have gotten a medium brightness of red, so more dye might have been a good idea. Clearly those 1/2 oz jars are not at all the way to go ($7/oz plus not enough in a jar for a machine batch). 8 oz jars are a bigger investment, but prices range from 80 cents/oz to 2.90/oz at Dharma Trading. If I’m primarily looking to dye base colors to dye on top of (edges or shibori overdyes), then I don’t want that dark a color anyway. But I’d love to try some of their greens and browns. I have so many problems with greens and browns using the Procion MX. Having to bleach out my washing machine occasionally would seem like a small price to pay if they work nicely.

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