Cynthia St. Charles Store

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Conservation Dyeing

MX Dye Gradations using Water Conservation Techniques
I call this process - Conservation Dyeing, because it is possible to "reuse" the soda ash/salt solution repeatedly. I used the same solution in the same containers to dye 12 different colors of gradations. I wanted to replenish my stash of cool colors for my quilting art, and summer is the best time for this.

Water conservation is especially important for me, as we do not have well or city water. Instead, all our water is hauled to our home in a 350 gallon tank on the back of a pick-up truck. There is an automated water station about 5 miles away, and it costs $1.50 to fill the tank (we keep quarters and dollar bills on hand for the water vending machine). When we get back home with the pick-up, the water is transferred to a cistern via gravity and a big hose. The cistern holds about 2700 gallons. Water hauling is a daily chore for our household in the summer months.
This picture shows the nearly 75 yards of fabric that I dyed using this method. It took approximately 2 weeks to complete this series.
The colors I used (shown standing somewhat vertically from left to right):

Lemon Yellow
Moss Green
Cobalt Blue
Deep Purple
Imperial Purple
Navy Blue
Forest Green
Golden Yellow with leftover Forest Green and Navy added
Truffle Brown

The fabrics laying slightly horizontally at the left side of the picture above were LWI dyed with leftover dye from each color run. For those pieces, I just dumped the leftover dye into the plastic tub containing the soda ash soaked fabric, creating several multi-colored pieces. Results below.

Below, you can see the container system I use for this process.
The 2 liter plastic water pitchers were purchased for about $1 each at Walmart (several years ago). I filled each to the 1.5 liter mark with soda ash solution. I mix 1/3 cup each salt and soda ash with 1 gallon of water to make my solution. This solution was never discarded. I refreshed it one time by adding 1 cup of solution about midway through the process. Each container holds approximately 1 yard of cotton fabric.
I keep all the water pitchers in a larger plastic tub to catch spills. I keep the lid on the larger container to help protect against evaporation. It is also easy to transport this way - everything is self contained in the larger container.
Even though this water looks incredibly murky, the dye is exhausted. Any color could be added, and it would dye true.

I mixed up 1 cup dye stock for each color.

To create the gradations, I poured off 1/2 cup dye stock and added it to the first container. Then, I added 1/2 cup of water back into the dye stock. From this diluted dye stock, I poured off 1/2 cup of dye solution and added it to the second container. This process was continued until I had a very diluted dye stock for the sixth container. I put 1 yard of prewashed, damp fabric into each container, manipulating with a long handled spoon until all air bubbles escaped and the fabric remained below the surface of the liquid. Then I left it alone for at least 24 hours.

Washout is also an exercise in efficient use of water. As I remove each yard from the container, excess solution is carefully squeezed back into the container. I toss the fabric into my dye dedicated top loading washer, which is filled to the lowest level with cold water on the soak cycle. (I don't spend time holding the fabric under running water - too much waste!) The fabric soaks in the washing machine for several hours, agitates, and is spun out. I put the damp fabric aside until I have several batches to wash out together in my water conserving front loading washer (uses only 7 gallons per load!).

Then, the fabric goes into the dryer for about 20 minutes while my ironing mangle heats up. I use the mangle to iron the slightly damp fabric.


Beena said...

I can't believe you haul your own water. THAT is ambitious.
I used to have a whole sale tie-dye business, so have worked with a lot of dyes once upon a time. I can't even imagine having gone through that process with the same constraints you go through with the water conservation.
Your fabrics look great. 75 yummy yards!!!!

norma said...

You got some beautiful results. I admire your tenacity. I don't think I'd be dyeing if I had to go through all that! I especially like your multicolored pieces at the end of the post. Yummy!

SRR said...

Although I don't have to haul water, I appreciate reading about your process. Using so much water does bother me, so I hope to incorporate some of your ideas.


Approachable Art said...

Fantastic description, thanks for taking the time to explain your process! I am a newbie to fabric dyeing and all the different methods make my head spin but I know it will become second nature with practice.