Monday, October 19, 2015

Overdyeing experiments - part 3 - some fabric pics at last

My goal in overdyeing fabric was to create more nuanced colors which I would like to explore further in various ways. I am mostly drawn to clear bright colors, so this wasn't an exercise in exploring neutrals. However, there is definitely a place for more subtle colors and neutrals. Helen Terry has some great posts on neutrals overdyeing experiments with complementary colors, and she has some truly lovely results.

My experiments are not rocket science, nor do they produce startling new information, but I find it helpful to document what I find as I experiment with Procion MX dye, and perhaps some other new dyers will too. Here are the conclusions I drew from this exercise:

1. It's all about proportion. Mud is not a foregone conclusion whenever the 3 primaries meet. There were some complementary mixtures which made pleasing colors where the proportions were not 1:1.
Base green/overdye red = ick
Two perfectly pleasant greens (top) which become extremely ick when the overdye contained too much red (bottom). Trust me, this photo is flattering those overdyes. They are butt ugly.

2. To my taste there are more positive results when the base range is analogous to the  overdye.
Base yellow/overdye analogous = all good results
Teal and pink overdyes (bottom) are not strictly speaking analogous, but far enough from complement to produce some very pleasant colors. 

3. The overdye which was successful across the greatest range of base colors was a pure blue. Further tests needed to determine if this was because it was blue, or because it was not a mixture. All the other overdyes were mixtures of pure colors (except the dirty green, which had grey). Almost all the base colors were mixtures of pure colors.
Blue overdyed with indigo
However, even in mixtures the blue played nice. This medium blue (left) is a mixture of 4 different colors, overdyed with indigo (red and blue), on the right. The base blue makes for some lighter pops of color creating a nice varied result.

4. When working with mixtures it is really important to keep in mind what makes up the mixture in order to have a successful overdye. Green made from blue and yellow will introduce very different elements than a green made from yellow and black.
Overdye surprise!
These little pops of turquoise are not turquoise dye, but blue overdye reacting with the  yellow which separated out in the red mixture. The result makes for some stunning pops of unexpected contrast.

5. Grey is a whole other ball game. There is a new pure grey that has just been manufactured, but this isn't it. This is a grey that tends to green. That means it is great with the blues and greens and teals, but turns pinks and purples a dull brownish mauve. From left to right, orange and grey - an interesting mushroom; teal and grey - never met a teal I didn't like; red and grey - unappetizing brownish mauve. Looking forward to testing with the new grey to be able to grey things without adding unintentional elements into the mix.

Grey overdyed
6. Overdyeing can rescue an obnoxious base color. Here the base color was a lime that would set your teeth on edge (bottom). Overdyed with teal (top), it becomes a much more likeable sour apple green, still with hints of lime to give it interest.
Lime green overdyed with teal
7. The respective strength of the base color and the overdye will have a big influence on the results. I dyed the base color at 4% OWG (left) and at 8% OWG (right). The overdye was at around 2% OWG. Remember the covalent bonds? An 8% dyestock uses up a lot of the available dye sites on the fabric, so the overdye was much less obvious. Some of the overdyes were made to a much weaker concentration than others. I was afraid the indigo would overwhelm if I made it too strong. The pink and dirty green were also very dilute. Where these overdyes were layered over colors similar to themselves, they barely registered.

On the 4% piece (left) you can see the mottled look created by dye sites which are not completely full. This is particularly obvious when you dye with the low water immersion method. This red was overdyed with a dilute dirty green made of yellow and grey. On the 8% sample there are barely any overdye marks (bottom right). On the 4% sample there are some interesting greeny/grey marks (bottom left).

Even more dramatic is the indigo overdye.
The 4% solution (left) allows for a strong indigo overtone in the overdye (bottom left). On the sample dyed at 8% (right) there are only traces of indigo by itself in the overdye (bottom right), although the base color has darkened considerably. 

One last point is the fabric used. Because I planned to dye so much, I went cheap and used my Joann's coupon to buy the Premium Legacy muslin. This is not mercerized, and gets a fuzzy look after a tough dye workout. If I had used mercerized print cloth, I would have had brighter results.

Lots more questions to answer! To the dye pots for more experiments!!


  1. Who would have thought you would make such a great scientist! I love those indigos and the sour apple green! The green would make such a wonderful contrast for a blue themed quilt, might need you to make more for me.

  2. Yes, it would be fabulous with blues! Pops nicely with a citrusy range of colors too.