UPDATE: Check out my 2019 post on Low Immersion Dyeing.
I won “The Complete Photo Guide to Textile Art” by Susan Stein quite a while back from Lindsey on the Craftside blog. The book includes over 40 techniques with wonderful step-by-step pictures and clear instructions.
While planning my dyeing day a couple weeks ago I looked through this book to see what sounded like fun. I decided to try low immersion dyeing.
I’m using fiber reactive dyes. When mixing these dyes, it’s important to wear a mask and gloves. Check out this old post about these dyes and precautions to take.
First we need to prepare the dye concentrate. I added 2 tablespoons of dye to one cup of warm water.
Pour water into jar.
Stir and mix and you have the dye concentrate.
However, we’re not done yet. Now add 1/4 cup of salt to each of the dye concentrates and stir.
In eight plastic cups I poured in the dye concentrate solution. For four of the cups I added a fourth cup of dye concentrate and the other four I added a half cup of dye concentrate. I then filled all of the plastic cups with water to equal 1 cup of liquid each.
Now to the fabric. Fabric must be washed and then soaked in soda ash before dyeing. For this dyeing, I soaked my clean muslin fat quarters in the soda ash for 30 minutes.
Then I wrung them out and placed each fat quarter in a separate gallon bag for a total of eight bags.
Next I poured one of the cups of dye into each bag.
I used four colors for these pieces: Parakeet, Goldfinch, Dragon Fruit and Orchid – all Dharma Fiber Reactive dyes. So for each color, there were two shades (two pieces) per color except for the Parakeet. I am not used to dyeing just one color so I had to add a little Orchid to that last piece.
After pouring the dye in the bag, I scrunched them a little just to make sure the dye covered the material.
Here they are all lined up and waiting for 24 hours before I rinse them and then wash and dry the fabric.
And the final results:
You can see that the top fabric has some Orchid added to it. Also, because I used 1/4 and 1/2 cup of dye, I could really tell the difference in the materials. The orchid doesn’t show a difference in the dye strength, but the other three colors you can definitely see the shade difference.
I love how these turned out. I love the texture. This was an easier technique. Once the dye mixing was finished, all I had to do was pour it in the bags. I want to do more of this and try adding two colors to the bags like I did on the last piece.
One thing Susan emphasizes in this book that there are different ways to dye depending on whose book you read or workshop you attend. She encourages the reader to do their own testing on what works best for them. One thing I did differently and will change next time is adding the salt to the concentrate. It would have worked better had a added the salt to the individual cups which Susan intended. I just read it wrong. Using the plastic cups worked out great. Even though they are disposable, I’ve rinsed them and will reuse them.
If you have any tips for low immersion dyeing, I’d love to hear them. Tomorrow, I’ll show you what I did with the rest of the dye concentrate.
The colors turned out great, Lynda! Really vibrant, not like the faded colors I think of when I remember trying tie-dye and things like that as a kid.
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Leah, Thanks. That’s why I love the fiber reactive dyes because they are so vibrant. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.
You’re right about there being lots of ways to do low water immersion dyeing! I usually do mine in a container like a bucket or bin. I don’t use salt, usually use at least 3 colors, and only batch for an hour before washout. But the way you demonstrated netted you some beautiful results too! I never tire of seeing what new and different ways people use to color cloth… thanks for sharing this one!
Judy, So glad you shared how you do it. Three colors – Wow! That’s my kind of dyeing!! Thanks. Now you have given me something else to try! Lynda
Sorry to make such a long-winded comment, but I love, love, love low immersion and I’ve done a lot of it. My fabric prep with the soda soak is similar. I use Procion MX dyes (no salt) mixed up with urea water to be fairly concentrated. I mix the dyes in yogurt cups and pour them into small squeeze bottles. I don’t use plastic bags–instead scrunch my fabrics into small plastic food containers which I use over and over again. I scrunch tightly making lots of hills and valleys with my gloved fingers. Sometimes I use small rubber bands to hold a scrunched shape, spiral, or accordion fold.
A silk scarf can scrunch into a yogurt cup, a fat quarter of cotton can fit into a pint container, a t-shirt into a small pail. Then I squirt dyes onto the damp, prepared fabrics mixing colors freely. Sometimes I have a dozen different colors in squeeze bottles. I also mix very small amounts of colors in yogurt cups or thin colors with urea water and apply the mixed colors with eye droppers. I also find that a couple of drops of black give me the darker shades that I like, especially when mixed with reds, blues, purples. Wonderful things sometimes happen where the colors meet and blend. You can then stick your gloved fingers in the container and give the fabric a squeeze for a more monochromatic look, but I don’t usually do much of that. You can flip your scrunched fabric bundles over, put them back in the container, and have a go at the other side of the fabric with the same colors or different colors.
My pieces tend to look somewhat like the upper part of your top piece of fabric. I like some white or lighter areas for added depth. When I am ready to batch, I stack the containers of the same size on top of each other and maybe a lid on the top one. Put all my containers for the day in a bucket. Cotton I usually batch for 24 hours or so, silk not so long. (Also I thin the soda ash water by about half for soaking silk.) I’ve been dyeing and selling habotai silk scarves done this way for a few years. I’ve also dyed silk ribbon, pearl cotton thread, and embroidery floss this way. Have fun–go wild! 🙂
Beth, Wow! Thanks for all of the info. Your comment will go in my dyeing info folder. Thanks.
I really like the idea of adding a little black. Got it, but haven’t used it. I’ll need to find someone who eats yogurt out of those containers (We make our own so don’t have any!). I’ve also got some of those eye droppers but wasn’t sure what to do with them. Thanks again so much!
I’m a horribly lazy blogger, but now that I wrote all that out I should put it together with some photos. I feel like a mad scientist when I get going. 🙂 There are several MX blacks. I like the one called new black.
Also… Here is a mixing chart that I’ve found very helpful. I don’t measure very precisely but you can get an idea what might happen when you mix colors. http://jacquardproducts.com/assets/jacquard-site/product-pages/dyes/procion-mx/Procion_Color_Mixing_Chart_2012.pdf
Oh.. the chart… I don’t mix powders but use those proportions with eyedroppers for mixed up dye. Berry sorbet is my favorite. Turquoise, Fuchsia, and black in about that proportion. Sorry, I’m clogging your comments!
Beth, You aren’t clogging my comments. I’m glad for your info. Berry Sorbet – Sounds yummy! Lynda
I like all the color that you made in this dyeing…All of them is my favorite…i think I should try also to make this kind…Thanks again so much!
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I would like to know more about low dying
Betty, There are lots of books on dyeing which include low immersion dyeing. The book I mention on this post is a good resource. Also, search “low immersion dyeing” on the web and you should get more information. Basically it’s called low immersion instead of regular dyeing is because you use less water. It’s a great way to dye. Thanks for dropping by.