Frequently Asked Questions About
Dyeing and Painting
Answered by Caryl Bryer Fallert
|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,
(105-110°F vs. 95°F 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.
|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
|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
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
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 2½ 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.
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?
best teacher I know of for general dye painting is Ann Johnston
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
book I would recommend for getting started is called Dyes
and Paints. It is by Elin Nobel, who was a chemist for
It has really basic getting started instructions for many
different types of dyeing. It covers just about everything!!
click on book for information
|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
Pro Chemical & Dye Inc.
PO Box 14
Somerset MA 02726-00141-800-2-buy-dye (228-9393)
fax (508) 676-3980
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
|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.
|QUESTION : Where
do you lay out your fabric when you paint it?
|Answer: I 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.
|QUESTION : When
you paint your fabric, do you start with your fabric wet or
|Answer: 95% 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
|QUESTION : On
your solid gradations, do you dye in the washing machine, or
do just stand there and stir?
|Answer: The varigated gradations
and watercolor gradations are dyed in buckets or other containers
with no stiring. The solid gradations are dyed in a washing
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Bryerpatch Studio 502 N. 5th St. Paducah, KY 42001