Final dyeing installment, Silk Hankies Sept 2002
This is a dyeing project inspired by my adult daughter. She learned to spin last winter, when I put a drop spindle in her Christmas stocking. She had played with drafting silk hankies before that, so I stuck some dyed hankies, and silk roving in the stocking along with the spindle. She fell in love with the silk, and especially the hankies. So after her web research and finding natural color hankies at Tweenway Silks for an amazing price per pound, we ordered and have felt rich in silk to dye ever since.
Her web research also found Color Hue dyes, that are specifically made for silk. These are instant dyes, and do not need heat or any additives. We bought a sampler pack of dyes, so we could have the fun of playing with lots of colors, but found the dyes will use up fast, and will buy in larger bottles now that we know what colors we like. I questioned when we got the sampler as to why it included brown and black dye, and this daughter knowledgably informed me that it was to darken mixtures of colors...and later preceeded to show me just how that worked. Lets hear it for web research!
I worked in premeasured 1/2 oz bunches of hankies. These I soaked in the sink of water so they didn't overlay each other (to help keep the silk from sticking to itself) After that, dyeing the hankies is all a matter of finding various ways of applying the dye.
We worked on lots of newspapers, then paper towels, then layers of saran wrap. As a hanky was finished it was rolled up in the saran wrap and held until we were ready to rinse. There really is no time needed as far as the dye color. The dye strikes as soon as it hits the silk. Color saturation occurs by making darker mixes of the dye. The medium color range is achieved by mixing 1 tsp of dye to 1 cup of water (the dyes are liquid). This can be darkened, or lightened by adding dye or water. These are easily mixed for color blending. And the dye exhausts completely, leaving clear water.
So we played with various ways to apply the dye. I used small squirt pipettes, and just put color in stripes of 2 or 3 colors. I did circle or from corner to corner patterns. I blended two colors and put that between the colors seperately on the hankie. I also found out that the stack of hankies had to be flipped over and the dye applied to that side also. All of these methods are slower and less messy, but don't soak the whole hanky because you are controlling the amount of dye going on it.
The dip method works wonderful also. It was the favorite of my daugher. You can fold the hanky so that the middle is in your hand, and the ends dipped into dye. This exhausts some of the dye. If you turn it around and then dip the middle in the dye, you get the lighter shade. You can over dye, by dipping in different colors. The only thing to be aware of, is that sometimes it gets to be so much fun, you overdo, and the lovely affect of just several dyes goes away. In other words, you overworked it! We found that the dyes, once made up, really do not get on fingers or table, but the dye straight concentrate will stain. Best to use rubber gloves, but not really needed.
We found that the 1 cup recipe, made in four colors, was enough to dye 4 oz of hankies. The only exception was the electric blue, it exhausted much quicker and I had to make more.
When we gently laid the hanky in water in the sink to rinse, there was surprisingly little color bleed. After rinsing, I placed each group of hankies on several layers of paper towels, and laid the stack again on newspaper. After about an hour, I seperated these, and put new paper towels in between, and on new newspaper. It is amazing how much moisture the silk holds. After another hour, I laid each still damp group of hankies on a mesh sweater drying rack, and turned the fan on them. It still took over night with the fan, to dry. I let the paper towels dry too, and can reuse them :) I did see some pink on the towels, so a hanky with red or purple might have not been rinsed enough.
The results are wonderful. I found as usual when trying out dyes the first time, I was timid with the color, and had more pastels than vivid colors. The beauty of these hankies though, is the blending of the color, on the hanky and when you draft and spin.
Many thanks goes to Maggie Backman of Thing Japanese for her Dyeing in a Teacup instruction book on working with these Color Hue dyes.