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Microwave Dyeing with Jennie Rayment

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Workshop notes from Jennie:

click here for a pdf version

Any washed natural fibres such as cotton or silk can be dyed in this way but wool is not advisable as it may shrink beyond redemption with the high heat from the microwave. Pure polyester or cotton and poly mixtures do not absorb the dye very well resulting in a paler shade of the desired colour. Rayon or viscose must not be put in the microwave as they can give off harmful fumes.

For those who are concerned about dyeing fabric in the microwave then using it for cooking – do not worry. Everything that is put in the microwave is kept carefully covered and on completion, I suggest that the machine is cleaned thoroughly and a peeled sliced potato is placed on a piece of kitchen roll on the rotary plate and cooked. Throw the potato away afterwards – it will have absorbed any odours and stray particles floating around inside the metal cabinet.

Another few words of caution: It is advisable to wear some form of a paper face mask if you have not used dye powder just in case of any allergy – this advice applies to all dye powders and not just to Dylon. Do not eat/drink the powder/liquid and be careful when opening the lid of the container after the fabric has been cooked. Wear rubber gloves as the dye is remarkably staining and it can take a lot of bleach and scrubbing to restore your normal colour especially round the nails. In brief – apply a bit of common sense

Finally, dyeing is messy play – enjoy it. The recipe below is not very precise – a bit more or less dye powder or salt won’t make a lot of difference. Repeating the exact colour again is very difficult unless you make precise notes and weigh very accurately which is no fun. Microwave dying with this method is an imperfect science – it is bit of this and bit of that and if a bit of the other happens – well why not!

MATERIALS Neede for Dyeing

50 cm (20”) squares of washed cotton/silk material

Dylon dye – hand or machine

Salt – kitchen cooking salt is fine

Rubber Gloves and apron

Plastic box with well fitting lid suitable for microwave use

Mixing bowls/pots – 500 ml yoghurt/ice-cream containers are ideal

Plastic 5ml teaspoons or any good sized teaspoon

Preparing the Dye Solution

1. Ignore the instruction on the packet to use the entire contents. Using small quantities of dye powder is much more economical and you can dye considerably more material.

2. The basic recipe for the hand dye (50 gm packet) is a slightly heaped 5 ml spoon of dye powder (approx 5 gm/1/5 oz) plus two heaped 5 ml spoons of salt (approx 25 gm/7/8 oz). For washing machine dye (200 gm packet), one slightly heaped 5 ml spoon of dye powder (approx 5 gm/1/5 oz) plus one heaped 5 ml spoon of salt (approx 12.5 gm/½ oz). Mix dry dye powder and salt together in mixing bowl/pot.

3. Add 60 cc (2 fl oz) of warm water to the dye powders and stir well.

4. Put fabric into dye solution. Work fabric well to get well covered with dye.

5. Squeeze out fabric, allowing excess dye to return to pot as this can be used again.

6. Place fabric in microwave bowl, cover firmly and cook on high power for 1½ minutes.

Cooking times will vary according to power of your microwave: 800 or more watts microwaves cook for 1 min 20 secs. 600 watt machines cook for 1 min 45 secs or thereabouts. If the timing is not absolutely precise, it does not matter too much but if you undercook then the colour will not be fixed into the cloth and if you overcook you run the risk of drying the fabric out. Seriously overcooking – more than 2+ minutes may result in the fabric singeing and the resulting smell is unpleasant!

7. Allow container to cool before opening the lid. Take the fabric out carefully using tongs as it will be hot. Allow to cool.

8. Remove fabric, rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Wash in warm water with a little soap to remove chemicals then dry and use for that special project. (Don't do as I have done and cheat on the washing and rinsing and throw it all in the machine with other things - unless you wish to have even more multi-coloured washing than usual.)

Easy isn’t it!

 

Dyeing your own fabric allows you to have subtly graded fabric that work extremely well for landscapes as well as graded colour quilts.

 

 

 

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