Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Hippies Aren't Dead Yet! Guide to Procion Dyeing!

Tie dye on the highway - see the garlands in your hair
If you’re going my way, come along
What a beautiful sky - we just had to stop and stare
See the beautiful colours fill the air
~Robert Plant

Picture 1: Shibori technique. It reminds me of Rajasthani saris.

Today in textiles class we did Procion-dyeing and pole-dyeing. I had no idea what either of these where so I did what anyone in this day and age would do- I googled it. Beautifully organised images of Japanese Shibori dyeing appeared, and I wondered how we would create such patterns in class. Well, the truth is, we didn't. Sometimes I have to remind myelf this is meant to be practice for teaching in a classroom and the end result isn't really what matters- it's all about the process! So here is my introduction to procion dyes and pole-dyeing. Which, beyond simple tie dyeing, has potential to be something incredibly cool.

2. Shibori technique. How the hell can you tie dye this?

First of all, Procion dye is a cold water dye. Which means it's great for batik and yes, dare I say it- tie dying. It's a vivid chemical dye and works best with cellular (plant) fibres like linen, cotton, flax etc. It is a chemical dye and comes in a powdered form, so it's best to wear a mask when mixing it up but once it's mixed with water you are good to go.

My classmates mixing water and dye with soda ash and salt.

One interesting fact about procion dyes is that it's not enough to make it active by mixing it with water; you need a little salt and some soda ash (sodium carbonate) to make it active. Therefore, you can mix the dye up in jugs whenever and just add the magic powder when you need it. Once activated, the dyes are good for about 24 hours only.

Our dyes! I mixed the teal in the centre.

Next, you need some natural material that has been scoured to wash the sizing out of it, and a plan. You can do all sorts of things with procion dyes, paint it on fabric with a paintbrush, tie dye, batik, dye solid colours, over dye several times, put it in a squirt bottle and spray the fabric- you get the point. Whatever you do, there are two important things to remember- don't wear any clothes you care about and whatever you do, the dyes have to be heat set with an iron or a dryer when you are completely finished.

Picture 3. More Shibori technique. Amazing.

Our first experiment was with pole dying. This is a shibori technique which, if done properly, can turn out looking like this:

Picture 4 Why can't mine look like this?

First you get a pole (or a broom handle a wine bottle, etc.) and you attach it to the surface with some masking tape.

Our instructor showing us the wrapping process in pole dyeing.

Then you begin winding elastics, string, (Or in this case, plastic Ikat tape which resists dye) around the whole pole. Once you run out of space, you push up the material to scrunch it together. Then you start again,winding the Ikat tape and scrunching it, until you are out of material.
When you get this low it's time to scrunch it up and start again.

Here you can dip the pole or paint over the folds. Had I had more time, I may have dip-dyed the whole piece of material first then applied the pole dying technique. I might have also taken more time to figure out ways to make the folds work in my favour but since this was the first try I did a straight pole dyeing experiment, painting stripes down the sides in order to see the effects. Unfortunately, someone had put the wrong brush in the dye so I had some unexpected colours added to my pole dying. Oh well! Next time, covet thy brushes!

My table mates busy scrunching and painting on their poles.

This one is mine. I thought the fuschia would mix with the teal and become purple. I tried to stick to a similar colour palette so it wouldn't be too hippie.
Yep, pretty hippie!
I'm not sure how the pumpkin got in there, other than the fuschia brush had been used for both dyes. But I suppose this is part of the 'unexpected spontaneous nature' of procion dyeing. However, Next time I will be a brush nazi.

Next experiment! Resisting the urge to make a Jimi Hendrix starburst, I pleated a piece of fabric, then tied it tightly in the middle. I painted one accordion side pumpkin, and the other side teal, making sure to put lots of dye in there to saturate it.

My tablemate demonstrates painting with procion dyes.

Oh yes, Jimi Hendrix would have been proud. My accordion dye job.

I was complimented on this one for being somewhat 'organised.' I told my instructor I was having a "Goa flashback" and she laughed- Apparently she lived in Goa for a while and knows exactly what I was talking about!

Here are the three pieces I made. The one on the far left was made by tying tiny rings together and dipping them in both violet and teal. I used a lot of the teal because it was the dye colour I chose to mix up.

It was a fun night, dipping and dyeing, seeing what transpired, which, I admit, I need to become more comfortable with. I tend to be a control freak. But one the other hand, I'm not a great fan of the tie-dye, though I could see doing this project with kids. (God knows, I did enough tie-dyeing as a teenager!) Shibori, however, really appeals to me in the sense that some of these spontaneous creations can be directed in order to achieve some (somewhat) desired effects.

If I had more time and money, I'd head down to Maiwa Handprints and take a workshop with Carol Soderlund from November 1st to 5th, 9 am to 5 pm. Information here if you are interested!

Links to pictures which aren't mine:




  2. Glad you like it. One Christmas present coming up!

  3. I wondered what you were up to this week. Alwasy checking the blog!!