Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Shelf Dyes Part 1

When you're 5-feet-nothing, the phrase "top shelf" doesn't necessarily mean "of the best quality." Usually, it means "stuff you have to stand on a stool to get to so you don't mess with it very often." In my fall studio cleaning and dejunkifying, I realized I had better do something with the Procion H dyes on the top shelf of my dye cupboard.

The Backstory
These are the dyes Bill bought to color fabric backings for some of the woodland scenes he creates for his rustic furniture collection. We've canoed in tandem and remodeled together, so we know our limitations: There was no way I could see his vision for this fabric until he created it. "Oh, that's what you mean."

Woodland scene by Bill Kallner
Now that I understand, when he needs more fabric I'm happy to produce it. In the meantime, the dye is taking up space in the heated cabinet that lets me conserve energy in my studio, which leaks like a sieve.

So this week's project was to get rid of all the containers of Procion H mixed with chemical water how long ago? and figure out how I can reasonably use up the undiluted concentrates of these discontinued dyes before they lose effectiveness. I had a stack of old sheets ($5 for nine 100% cotton percale sheets at the thrift store), so no new fabric was harmed. And no people were harmed in this week of experimentation, although it may look like I committed a murder: The ketchup bottle in which Bill had mixed a red dye with chemical water leaked when I shook it. I should have known better than to shake it, or done this project at Halloween.

Snow Dyeing
But since it's winter and we have plenty of snow, I figured I might as well try snow dyeing with the mixed red. Compared to just pouring it down the drain, any color  it put on fabric would be a bonus.

I scrunched part of one sheet into a plastic tub, layered on snow and squirted the snow with dye mixture, then repeated the scrunch-snow-squirt procedure a couple of times. When it was all done, it didn't look like enough dye so I added some yellow and fuscia. I recognize the irony of mixing more dye for this.

After about an hour in my studio, the snow had solidified enough that I could tip up the container to let it drain so the dye wouldn't get too dilute.

There were still snow crystals in the middle a couple of hours later when I took it outside to open up. It needed to be hung up to drip. Instead of shoveling a path to the clothesline, I stuck some sticks into a pile the snowplow left by my studio.

I always wonder what my neighbors think when they see stuff like this in our yard.

The dye drips left behind seemed to go with the ketchup bottle splatter inside.

After the fabric was mostly done dripping, I hung it up in the studio to dry overnight. Then I steamed it on a rack in the Nesco (amazing what you can do with these things when you no longer keep them for cooking).

After steaming, rinsing and washing, here's what I got:

Next time, I'll show you some of the shaving cream printing and painting I did with the Procion dyes.

In the meantime, we wish you all a Happy New Year!


  1. Almost makes me wish for snow...NOT! But it is beautiful dyeing.

  2. We'll try to keep the snow up here, Sherri!


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