May 25, 2012

Dyeing to know

I don't have a lot of experience dyeing fabric or clothes. I've 'met' other seamstresses in the blogosphere who are past mistresses at this particular art, but I'm not one of them. They have caught my attention though. 

It's not like I didn't know dyeing was possible. I remember when I was about ten years old, my mother wanted to throw out her pale yellow summer coat because of a nasty stain she couldn't wash out. Little miss smartypants I was, I suggested she'd try and dye the coat. She bought purple dye and although the colour turned out quite a bit lighter than expected, it did cover the stain and she wore the coat for several more years.
Once on my own, I tried dyeing only one time. It was a piece of canvas which I dyed green to make a grocery bag. The dye job turned out a bit uneven but yet, I loved that bag and used it a lot until it was stolen off the back of my bicycle (as I was riding it. I fell and hit my head, not a good memory...).
Fortunately, it was one of my first projects to be uploaded to Burdastyle, so I can still show it to you:

After that, I kept shrinking away from further dyeing experiments. If you buy  most fabric on the cheap, it seems silly to spend more on a packet of dye then you did on the fabric itself. And I didn't think the blotchy effect of my beloved grocery bag would look very good when worn...

Enter designer friend M who used to design for a line of 'garment dye' clothing. I don't know if you're familiar with that term and technique. It just means that garments are sewn up in undyed fabric which is coloured and shrunk to size by the dyeing process afterwards. If you know what to look for, you can spot this effect in some RTW clothing (usually, it's about thread in the exact same colour and a slight rippling at seams, especially at flat felled ones. It's mostly used for casual clothes). The shrinking bit meant that all designs had to be tested in the proper fabric, to make sure they would end up being the right size. So, when she stopped designing for it, she was left with several rolls of the fabric. In different thicknesses and weaves. 
When moving her studio recently, she considered throwing those rolls of fabric out. Since we've been using it for muslins these past years, I spoke up against that idea but I also offered to take a roll off her hands. 

This one. It's just about impossible to photograph, but it's a fairly stiff cream white fabric with a slightly ribbed texture. The green is just the wall of my sewing room (which has three white walls and this one in green). I took it to make my own muslins, but I was also interested it the true nature of this stuff. So, to finally come to the point of this post, I tried dyeing some of it. I considered red and blue, but went with green (again). I'm glad I did because this was the result.

It appears this fabric was made up from two different fibres. I would guess the one that didn't take the dye to be polyesther but I know the brand M used to work for had a strong preference for natural fibres, so I just don't know. A burn test didn't help either. Now, it's a supply fabric, with a hand like heavy crepe and a delightful, muted moss green colour. 
I think I will use it to finally sew up this reproduction Vintage Vogue dress. I bought the pattern years ago but then, my pattern making habit took over and I had a hard time finding a suitable fabric for it. 
But, the weather here has quite suddenly turned rather warm, so I may go for some more season-appropriate things first.

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