Where is that "how to dye" book anyway?

When I started dyeing silk veils several years ago I thought I would be able to approach it like baking. (That sounds weird but hear me out!) I thought I could get a “recipe book” that would give me the ingredients, temperature, what utensils to use, how long to “bake”, et cetera. And there are many such books. And many of them are very goodhttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=ago09-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0965677605&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr — for example, Ann Johnston’s Color By Accident is really useful if you want to try low water immersion dyeing. You can also find a few http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=ago09-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B0009O1HAO&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrgreat DVDs, if you’re interested in the physical manipulation of cloth before applying dye. And you could not do better than just sitting down and reading every word on Paula Burch’s hand dyeing site.
But here’s the thing… there are so many variables when you dye. Books and DVDs just can’t cover them all. Sometimes they are big… applying Ann Johnston’s work to silk instead of cotton requires a lot of adjustments and you simply won’t get the same results as she does. Sometimes the variables are as far in the background as you can get — dyeing in the dry cool winter vs. dyeing in the hot humid summer produces a different result when everything else is the same!
Come down to it, dyeing is a lot more like cooking than like baking. You can start out with a recipe, but you need to consult your experience to decide when to adjust or change your process. Maybe your recipe said that for a particular color of dye you should use X amount, but when you’ve mixed it up you see that the solution is weak and watery. You have to decide then whether you think that will give you the outcome you want, almost like a chef tasting as she goes. (Except, clearly, don’t taste it!)
And this is also why I think that anybody who is going to do more than one or two weekends’ worth of dyeing needs to be keeping notes. I have several notebooks full of scribbly notations… I sort of wish now I’d done it all on computer, but I don’t like the idea of having the computer open and on near where I am splashing around… and some of those notes are invaluable. (Like “Teal Blue comes out v. gray on silk, must correct” and “double Baby Pink or not enough pigment”.) Just the same way you scribbled in your old cookbook “use half the crushed red peppers, too hot!”, notes can help you avoid a bad outcome a second time.

Not to mention the fact that someone may want you to do again something you’ve already done. I just had a custom order for a veil similar to the Three Shade Ombre I made back in 2007! Thank goodness I still had my notes!


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