Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Black is NOT Black!

One of my dyeing projects over the past few weeks was to preview black dyes from a variety of sources.  I did something similar a couple years ago, using three blacks from Dharma Trading...but finally got around to fleshing this project out farther.

Both photos show the same dyes in the same positions.  In the first photo are fat quarters of muslin.  The second photo shows various sized pieces -- around a fat quarter or so -- of sections of old table linens. 

With all the sampling I've been doing, and this applies to every color or combo I've used, nothing changed from one batch to the other except the dye color(s).  I used essentially the same amount of dye (between 1 and 1.5 tsp for the entire batch in 4 cups water -- slight quantity variations where I used two or three colors together), the same amount of water, same water temperature, same amount of salt and soda ash, same processing time.  All these blacks were done with 1 1/8 tsp dye powder in each batch.  I'll say more about this later.

I've arranged the samples with the most purple black at the top left, down to the most true black IMO on the bottom left, then blue down to teal-tinged blacks on the right.

The top left sample is Dharma's Black 44 -- quite purple actually.  Could stand in for a combo of indigo and violet.

Second sample on left is Dharma's Black 300 -- also purplish but not as intense a purple as the Black 44.

Third on left is ProChem's Black 608, essentially the same as Dharma's Black 300.  Maybe a tad bit less purple.  They're close enough where I could see combining them into one container and shaking thoroughly!

Bottom left sample is ProChem's Black 609 which, for my money, is the truest black in the bunch.  The areas that want to go toward purple as in the above samples, here are closer to a charcoal gray.

On the top right we have ProChem's Black 604 -- quite indigo, actually.  You could mix this with a little navy and virtually replicate indigo.

The middle right sample is ProChem's Black 602A "Cotton Black" which I don't think is very black at all, not on cotton and linen.  It's rather teal and slightly green.  Reminds me of Dharma's Black 39 -- which I don't use anymore -- which is quite green.

On the bottom right is Jacquard's Jet Black 150 which is really a beautiful deep, dark teal.

I originally learned to do shibori in a 5-gallon bucket with 2 gallons of water, 1 cup salt, 3-4 T of dye powder (predissolved, of course), and 4 T of soda ash.  That size batch can accommodate up to 15 or even 20 pieces of fabric bound, stitched, clamped and/or folded, including several pieces on poles that can nest inside each other.

For my sampling, I broke all those quantities down by eight, so that I could do each batch in 4 cups of water in a gallon jar, which accommodated 2 or 3 pieces of fabric, about 3/4 yard in total.  The liquid wasn't deep enough for me to do any work with poles, but by doubling this small batch in the same gallon jar, one could manage a pole or two in addition to the other packets of fabric.

So here's a Shibori Dyeing Tutorial for a small batch using one dye color:
  • Mix 1 1/8 tsp of dye powder in about 3 oz of hot tap water, to dissolve.  Stir well, let it sit, come back and stir again.  You want to get all the dye particles in solution.
  • Put 2 Tbsp of salt in a gallon jar.  Add four cups hot tap water and stir to dissolve the salt.
  • Pour about a cup of salt water back into the measuring cup, then add the fully dissolved dye to the jar.  Add the remaining salt water back into the measuring cup that held the dye, to get all the dye particles that are left in that cup.  Then pour this into the jar.  Stir.
  • Add your 2 or 3 scrunched/bound/stitched/folded or clamped fabrics and make sure the liquid covers all.  You'll likely have to hold the fabric under the liquid with the stir spoon for a minute or two.
  • Time this operation for 15 minutes.
  • While you're waiting for the initial 15 minutes to pass, mix up 1 1/2 tsp soda ash in a bit of hot tap water.  You need really hot water to dissolve soda ash, but it doesn't have to be boiling.  Mix it up and have it ready to add to the dye after the first 15 minutes.
  • After 15 minutes, add soda ash and with your gloved hand in the liquid, mix up the dye liquid, squeeze the fabrics, agitate for 30 seconds or so.
  • Time for another 15 minutes.
  • With gloved hand, agitate inside the jar.
  • Do this timing and agitating 3 more times, for a total of 1 hour of dye time following adding the soda ash.
  • After an hour is up, fill your sink or a basin with cold water, take the fabric pieces out of the jar and put in the cold water to begin rinsing.  Dump out the used dye.  Do two or three rinses in cold water, unwrap the fabric at some point, get as much of the residual dye out of the fabric with cold water as you can.
  • At the final rinse, squeeze out the fabric, and then wash in the machine with hot water and Synthrapol.  Synthrapol is a product that keeps any remaining dye in solution, meaning the dye won't become unlodged in the wash and reattach itself to another piece of fabric, or white areas, or whatever.  If you use Synthrapol, you can finish off many colors of fabric at once with no danger of dyeback.
  • Or, you can hang the fabric in your shower to dry, do several shibori batches, and wash it all together at the very end -- this is what I do.
Have fun!


Jan said...

Ye gods! This is the perfect example of how differently we are hard-wired! This is intriguing, but does not approach what I would call fun!

I bow to your thoroughness; I bow to your love of this process in all its iterations!

love you!

Vicki W said...

Have you tried Dharma's jet Black 250? It's the one I use and I get a beautiful deep black with it.


Incredibly interesting results when compared to each other. How many variations of black there are. All look black until compared right next to another


Nienke said...

Thanks for sharing, I redirected at my (dutch) blog to this very valuable experiment!

susan christensen said...

Interesting study - I am in awe of your methodical process, and love the effect of the dyes on the found linen with the leaf pattern! I dye tomorrow - thanks for the inspiration as always.

Deb H said...

Hey Connie, have you ever tried the Sabracon dyes from ProChem? I love the F 61 black. It was the richest black I've ever gotten. I wonder how it would compare to your others.

I tend to be less scientific about my approach though. Much more by the seat of my pants. It's good that folks like you like to take the scientific approach. You can certainly probably reproduce your results better than I ever could!

margaret said...

Dyeing with black is always a surprise!