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Frequently Asked Questions About
Dyeing and Painting

Answered by Caryl Bryer Fallert

Ask your questions here


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QUESTION : What kind of dye do you use for your fabric?
Answer:  I use Sabracron F dyes for both my graduated solid colored fabric and my multicolored painted fabric. This is very similar to the more commonly used Procion MX dyes. I switched to Sabracron several years ago for several reasons. I had developed an allergy to the Procion dye. The Sabracron F dye can be measured rather than weighed. A tabelspoon of each color seems to be about the same intesity. The Sabracron F also seems to be more granular, so it doesn't float around the studio like mushroom spore. I still use a serious, rubber, vapor and mist mask when I am mixing my dye powders, but I feel that any spilled powder is more likely to sink to the bottom of my laundry sink than with Procion. Sabracron F costs more per pound than Procion, but the water I throw out seems to be more clear. I think that more of the dye molecules react with the fabric, and less with the water. They have a slightly longer reacting time than Procion (2 hours vs. 1 1/2 hours for dip dying) and a slightly higher ideal temperature for dip dying, (105-110F vs. 95F for procion).

I buy my dyes from PRO Chemical and Dye Inc. (1-800-2-BUY-DYE- orders only or (508) 676-3838 if you have questions about dye)

The colors I use most are F-11 Sun Yellow, F-40 Turquoise, F-35 Fuschia, FGF Intense Blue, and F-61 Rich Black. All the other colors are mixed from these.

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QUESTION : I note that you use Sabracron F, and I heard that this dye when wet appears more like the actual color you get after washing. That is, you can mix the color and get the same color (or close) on the fabric. If this is true, it would be superior to Procion MX, which to get chartreuse (also a favorite of mine and hard to photograph in my experience too), I have to mix a color that looks kelly green. Sometimes I forget and think my formula won't work. Would using Sabracron eliminate this problem? Also, how do you obtain the 105-110F temps that you need for Sabracron. Do you steam your fabrics, even the immersion dyed ones? Is there a different formula for silk and for cotton fabrics using Sabracron. I'm trying to decide whether to use Procion H, Sabracron or continue with MX.
Answer:  To get the 105-110 temps I just use hot tap water. I never actually measure the temperature. 105-110 is just tepid bath water temperature. "Ouch" doesn't even start until about 120. I usually start with the hottest tap water I have, and figure it will stay warm enough for the duration. Also, like procion, if you let it sit long enough at room temperature, the reaction will take place. I usually let my fabric sit for at least 24 hours, or I use my "high tech solar fabric cooker" (a sheet of plastic laid over the wet fabric in the sun) In the summer this may get the fabric hot enough that it can be washed after a couple of hours. The only time I steam my fabric is if it dries so quickly ( less than 3-4 hours) that the dye doesn't have time to complete it's chemical reaction with the fiber molecules. This is only likely to happen in Chicago on 2-3 days out of the year.

Please understand that I call myself a "seat of the pants" dyer. I do lots of experimenting, and when I get a result that pleases me, I try to remember how I got it, so I can make it happen again. For the really technical information on the "correct" use of these dyes, you should check with PRO Chemical and Dye Inc. (1-800-2-BUY-DYE- orders only or (508) 676-3838 if you have questions about dye), where Elin Nobel, or one of the other company chemists can give you the really scientific scoop.

Let me explain some of my reasons for switching to Sabracron F.

First: I had developed an allergy to the procion. Even working with the procion dyed fabric, I would begin to feel like I was coming down with a cold within half an hour just from the dust of ripping the fabric or running it through the sewing machine.

Second:  The Sabracron F can be measured in equal amounts. You don't have to weigh the powder, or remember complicated formulas like 8 tablespoons of yellow is about the some intensity as 4 tablespoons of turquoise or 2 teaspoons of fuschia. I mix all my liquid dye concentrates with equal amounts of dye powder for each color.

Third:  Sabracron F seems to be a little more granular than Procion, so less of it seems to be whooooofing around the studio like mushroom spore. Any spilled powder seems to settle to the bottom of the laundry sink, where it can be washed down the drain. Please understand that I still treat the dye powder with great respect. I use a serious rubber dust and vapor mask when I'm working with it. Makes me look like Darth Vador. I do remember when I was working with Procion that some of the powders, especially yellow, were so fine and light that they would just float out of the jar and remain suspended in the air for a long time.

Fourth: When I'm doing exhaust (immersion) dyeing it seems to me that more of the dye is reacting with the fabric, and less is reacting with the water molecules. When I was working with Procion, it seemed that I was throwing out water that had a lot of color in it. With the Sabracron F dyes, the water I'm throwing away is often almost clear, with just a tint of the color left in it. The dye powders are more expensive than Procion, but if you are getting more of the molecules of dye into the fabric, it's a good value.
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QUESTION : I would like to learn about dying and painting with dye. Do you teach this, or do you have any written information on dying? Where can I get information, and where can I go to learn to paint fabric like the pieces in your catalog?
Answer:

johnston.jpg border=The best teacher I know of for general dye painting is Ann Johnston annjim@teleport.com. She also has three excellent books out on painting with dye. The second "Color by Accident" discribes methods that are very similar to the ones I use. I would highly recommend all of Ann's books.

click on book for information

nobel.jpg border =Another book I would recommend for getting started is called Dyes and Paints.  It is by Elin Nobel, who was a chemist for ProChemical.   gkcraft.noble@worldnet.att.net  It has really basic getting started instructions for many different types of dyeing.  It covers just about everything!!

click on book for information

The best teacher I know for really controlled dye painting is Hollis Chatelain,   hollisart@aol.com who is an excellent, sharing teacher and is becoming known for her photo-realistic dye painted quilts

Hollis Chatelain with Sahel 5450
                bytes)
click on picture for larger image

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QUESTION : What kind of fabric do you use for your dyeing, and where do you get it?  

Answer:  90% of the fabric I dye is mercerized, bleached cotton print cloth, which I buy from
Test Fabrics Inc. (catalog # 400M)
415 Delaware St, PO Box 28
West Pittston, PA 18643
717/603-0432
FAX 717-603-0433

or from
Pro Chemical & Dye Inc.
PO Box 14
Somerset MA 02726-00141-800-2-buy-dye (228-9393)
fax (508) 676-3980
(508) 676-3838
PRO-CHEMICAL@worldnet.att.net
http://www.prochemical.com/prochem_main.htm

It is the perfect weight for piecing, has a very even tight weave, and rips absolutely straight on the lengthwise grain. 

I also occasionally use sheeting.  My favorite right now is the 60 inch wide sheeting from Dharma Trading Company.   It is a little heavier than print cloth, and more loosely woven.  It's great for skys and backgrounds for applique.

Occasionally I also dye Pima Cotton Broadcloth.  I have used both the "broadcloth supreme" from Test Fabrics and the "pima" from Kaufman.   I can't tell the difference.  They take the dye better than anything, and because of the tight weave, you can get very fine details in your dyeing.  They are wonderful for clothing, and I have used them in a number of my quilts.  At this point I'm kind of backing away from using them in my quilts because They are so tightly woven that they will occasionally cause the needle to skip while I'm machine quilting.  I don't like unnecessary technical challenges, so I'm saving the pima for clothing, and for quilts in which I just have to have that color. 

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QUESTION :  I have been trying to find soda ash in my area and cannot locate any. I have tried all of the art and craft stores. Is there any thing that I can substitute when soaking fabric for tie dyeing it.
Answer:   I buy light soda ash at the local pool supply store. I have them special order it in 50 pound buckets. If you don't need a whole 50 pounds, you can usually buy it in 5 pound jars right off the shelf. In our area it usually goes under the name "PH-UP" or PH PLUS.
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QUESTION : Where do you lay out your fabric when you paint it?
AnswerI lay my fabric out on a sheet of 4'x8' plywood, covered with plastic. The plywood is set on top of two sawhorses, outside, or in a garage in the summer, and in the basement in the winter.
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QUESTION : When you paint your fabric, do you start with your fabric wet or dry?
Answer95% of the time I work with wet fabric, but once in a while I work with dry fabric, and add the soda to the liquid dye before I pour or paint it on.
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QUESTION : On your solid gradations, do you dye in the washing machine, or do just stand there and stir?
AnswerThe varigated gradations and watercolor gradations are dyed in buckets or other containers with no stiring. The solid gradations are dyed in a washing machine.
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Web Site Design by Caryl Bryer Fallert 1997-2007 All Rights Reserved
Bryerpatch Studio • 502 N. 5th St. • Paducah, KY 42001
caryl@bryerpatch.com • 270-444-8040

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