Monday, July 18, 2016

How and Why to Make Dye Test Swatches



Accurate Record Keeping
Is Important

Whether you dye or quilt or paint, keeping track of materials is a very important issue for us all. I know quilters who snap a picture of stack of fabrics they purchase to remember what they got. How about noting on the receipt the special fabrics and amounts, and snapping a shot of that? You will not only know how much you have of a certain fabric, but also what you paid for it. This is helpful if you are making a custom quilt for someone, and want to be sure you're recouping your costs.

Marking Dye Swatches

I was running into problems with fabric swatches as I bought new dyes, and tested new fabrics. I had an AHA! moment yesterday, and acted on it. I cut 6.5" squares from a new cotton sateen I am trying out, and used a Sharpie fine line marker to write the name of each new dye I needed to test. I also added the Procion MX dye number that Dharma Trading Co. uses. Then I heated up my soy batik wax, and gave each corner a swipe with the wax. I let it harden, and threw the lot into my soda ash bucket to soak.



I worked in small groups of like colors, and did a quick dye of each swatch matching it to the dye labelled in its corner.


When you see the similarities of some colors, you understand why marking each swatch is very important! 

The beauty of soy wax is that when it's time to rinse your fabrics in hot water, the soy wax washes out easily. I wash my fabrics in Dawn Blue dishwashing liquid, and that's all there is to getting rid of the soy wax. It's safe to go down the drain, and for my septic, and I have an accurate, permanent label.


What's the Point of Testing?

Here's a loaded question: Why not just use it? 

Each dye lot is mixed as close as possible to the company's proprietary recipe, but there can be slight differences. There are cases where you absolutely have to have the right color, and some are very hard to match. 

Think Paint

It's no different than buying paint. Those little blops of color going into your base bucket when you ask for custom mixed paints are pigments just like dye is. The only true pigments are fuchsia, turquoise, and yellow. All other colors are mixed from these with additions of black. Even a tiny amount of one or another color being out of proportion will mean a different shade or tint.

Now Look Back At the Last Picture
Can You See the Speckles?

Some reds or fuchsia are harder to dissolve. That means when you first mix the dye in water--called 'pasting up', you have to stir and stir. Some instances call for straining the dye carefully as to not get spotting like you see in the photo. These swatches took over 2 hours moving through the process quickly as possible. It was 90 degrees, and a fan was not an option while measuring out dye powder. The separation of dye particles actually gave me good information about each dye, though. I know now when I use those colors I need to spend adequate time pasting and mixing. It's not because there is something wrong with the dye.

*By the way, dissolving tough colors can be helped along by adding urea to your water.

Using Swatches

If you haven't guessed it, I'm a visual person. In some cases I need to see it for it to make sense to me. Most of the time when designing it's easy to say, "It needs blue." Figuring out which blue is more difficult, and that's where the swatches come in. 

You would be surprised even when using swatches how the natural light from one room to the next will change how you see a color. The daylight hours change their appearance, too, as does our indoor lighting. If you've ever tried shooting a photo inside at night, you'll know shadows, too, have a big effect. Look once more above at the last photo, and see my shadow crossing the bottom swatches. Now really look at the color. Can you see the dramatic difference?

I hope your day is filled with as much color adventure as mine is, and I'll see you back here soon. I have so much more to share this week!

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew, paint, dye, and smile!
It's a good day.


2 comments:

  1. Oh so true. I learned this in college (my major was theatre costume design). Test dye swatches and costume mock-ups are so important. 'Looks like you do a very organized job of your test dye swatches.

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  2. Having dyed fabric before I know how important it is to keep notes. On the other hand, I was so enamored with my dyed fabric I have been loath to use it. Now, after 10 years and 2 moves, I realize I really should USE the stuff. Happy to report that a little of it went into a piece this past weekend.

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