Aug 24 2014 · 1 comment · Blog, dyeing, dyeing tools, technique, experiments in marbling, painting, process, silk ·

Saturday Afternoon Experiments with Discharge Paste and Thickened Dye

It all started with a silk chiffon stole that I had dyed a deep blue. I wanted some kind of surface design on it, but fabric paint stamps and brush lines weren’t showing up. I thought about stitching but talked myself out of that pretty quickly. Okay, if colors aren’t going to show up OVER the blue, how about taking away some color? Dye discharging is something I haven’t done yet, although I had bought some stuff a while back, so I figured I’d give it a try. As I’m in the habit of doing, I didn’t really pay attention to the instructions before buying and it turns out I need to mix this on the stove in an enamel pot (which I don’t have) and heat it and stir it and do all kinds of things that I wasn’t in the mood for. I did try just sprinkling some of the powder in hot water and sticking the fabric in… apparently it won’t work that way.

Next up – good old Clorox bleach pen. You would think that would leave nice white marks, wouldn’t you? Turns out the acid dye that I’ve been using is impervious to bleach. Who knew? This led me down the Dharma Trading rabbit hole where I found this. Says it works on acid dye. (Note to self: First rule of pretty much anything is Know Your Materials.) After doing some reading up I also bought some fiber reactive dyes. These require a different process but I think I’ll get a better result. I’ve been noticing with some colors they seem to “shift” and change and I’ve actually gotten what look like brownish stains on some pieces; all I can figure is I didn’t dye them correctly. I do need a big enamel or glass pot for these dyes, too so that’s something I’ll be prowling thrift stores for.

Anyway, upon further excavating layers of tutorials and YouTube videos I discover that I can actually make thickened dye that can be used for stamping, stenciling, or brushing on that doesn’t leave a stiff residue on the fabric like paint does. Needless to say this required yet another supply order. This never ends, does it? A few days later, I have my seaweed based sodium alginate thickener and urea for fixing the dye to the fibers along with a recipe to mix it all up.  I love that part – it’s like science class but more fun.

After this little detour I have to get back to my dark blue chiffon stole. First I accordion folded the whole thing lengthwise and sponged the discharge paste along the edges, the theory being that I’d get white horizontal stripes. I have to let it dry completely. The dried paste is invisible at this point and it doesn’t look like I’ve done anything. But THEN I start going over it with a steam iron and like magic the areas of removed color start to appear. This is the coolest. thing. ever. I got sorta kinda horizontal stripes; they’re a little lumpy and blobby but that’s okay. The other surprise is that the fabric may not become completely white. Depending on how much steam and how much paste there might be light blue, green and even some pink and brown for some reason (see above comment about brown stains). I suppose it’s the formulation of the dye powder but I like what I see happening! Vertical lines? Sure, why not? Accordion fold the other way and brush on. These didn’t come out as well – I didn’t put enough on to really penetrate the layers of chiffon but I still think it’s looking pretty good. Last but not least I twisted little bunches randomly all over and fastened them with thread, then dunked each one in the discharge paste. Ironing those out, I thought the areas would look more like flower bursts which is what I would get with dye. Not so much, but there are still some very interesting complex patterns that show up. I don’t know what would happen if I diluted this paste with water – that’s an experiment for another time.


IMG_7276 IMG_7273

Okay, next for the thickened dye. I had used randomly sponged discharge paste on a 42″ square of 5 mm habotai that was a mottled pattern of blues and greens and then marbled with a kind of wave pattern in very light magenta. The marbling is really, really subtle on the blue but those pink waves showed up in the areas where the color was removed.

Hmmm…. dark background, dark marbling, windows of discharged dye to pop the marbling out; definite possibilities there. You see the problem I have with focusing on one thing at a time and seeing it through to the end? Yeah. Moving on…

Rummaging around for something to use as a stamp I found an old glass light fixture cover with a raised “cut glass” pattern on it. It’s so crazy it just might work.IMG_7247

I got my piece of silk soaking in white vinegar (it preps the fabric to accept the color) and mixed up some thickened dark purple dye to about the consistency of heavy cream. Crafty Tip of the Day – buy eggs that come in plastic instead of cardboard cartons. Those little puppies make the best paint mix trays ever. (The one shown here was actually the plastic packaging that Christmas ornaments come in so each little ‘well’ is bigger. Yes, I save lots and lots of weird stuff. Some of it I even actually use.)


Sponged the dye all over the globe. I still ended up with purple hands in spite of the gloves. I don’t know how it happens but every time I work with dye I have technicolor hands and fingernails for days.


Now for the moment of truth. I carefully draped the still-damp silk over the glass and gently patted it down. Success! The pattern showed up perfectly! This could easily have gone the other way and I would’ve wound up with a gigantic purple blob which would have been another post titled Finding Ways to Fix Well-Intentioned But Badly Executed Experiments.


Carefully lifted the fabric off and ta-da! It’s perfect awesomeness.


I forged ahead and printed a bunch of these medallions all over the piece. I discovered that on dry silk the pattern tended to be less distinct. I tried sponging some more vinegar on the areas I wanted to stamp but I think I got it too wet because then some of the prints blurred and spread. On a smaller piece of fabric that I could get done before it dried I might get more consistent results. But I think the overall pattern came out really pretty. You can’t see the pink marbling waves in these pictures, unfortunately, but they’re there, trust me. Now I just need to steam it to permanently fix the dye.

IMG_7272 IMG_7271 IMG_7270

I have several other already dyed and/or marbled silks that are screaming out for more attention and now I have a couple more weapons in my creative arsenal to play with. What’s next for these pieces? Who knows? I have absolutely NO CLUE yet what the end results will be. (And that’s the fun of it!)

Jun 09 2014 · 0 comments · Bags, Blog, Hand Dyed Scarves, silk ·

Taste of Louisville Craft Show

I did my first outdoor show last weekend. A one-day event, I figured it would be perfect because it’s difficult for me to commit to two full days at this point. My booth has definitely evolved. At my first craft show I was tucked into a 6′ x 6′ corner; a card table and a chair with a scarf hanging contraption made with a paper parasol (which in theory was brilliant but lacked in execution). I got myself a 6′ table which opened up new display possibilities. Scarf hanger 2.0 was two lattice panels hinged together and stood at an angle with the scarves pulled through the openings. It worked okay, but really didn’t show the scarves to best advantage, as you can imagine, with them all scrunched into those little holes.

IMG_1785Version 3.0 was a gadget assembled by George which consisted of a pole with a wire hoop fixed to one end, the other end slipped into a hole in a weighted cardboard box covered with white paper. Yes, I know. Classy. As you can imagine I spent more time picking the thing up after it would tip over whenever someone did more than brush the scarves with their fingertips. At this point I was basically fitting everything I had on one table.  I used this same basic setup for the last show I did except I had a couple of dress forms out front. (I know, I know… I should have pictures of all of these but I don’t.)

IMG_6737 IMG_6740Fast forward to last weekend. We’ve come a long way. The scarves are hanging from shower curtain rings clipped to chains running from front to back. I went that route basically because a wind gust could pick up the scarves and send them flying off like so many kites if they were just draped over a line and I didn’t want a bunch of clothespins or clips sticking up. The only problem with this was, again, not being able to really see the pattern and size of each scarf. The tops looked really good and the brown kimono was an eye-catching piece out front. I went with black on the table and back curtain because it made the colors pop. There was a presentation board on the back wall with photos illustrating the marbling process so I didn’t have to explain that I didn’t just buy silk fabric and sew it into scarves, etc. I feel good about what we did here but we have lots of ideas for going forward.

I sold a few items, handed out a number of business cards, and overall got great feedback and reactions from people. I’ve come to the conclusion that these craft shows are never going to be money makers for me, but that’s actually okay because if I approach them more as a marketing tool than for on the spot sales I can get a lot of mileage out of a day or two of putting my stuff out in front of people. We’ve been kicking around ideas about just displaying samples and providing a catalog with all my items; custom orders; putting out only small items – hair accessories, bandanas, flower clips, little purses, neckties – to sell and only displaying the high end pieces like the kimonos with signage for the Etsy shop where those items are available.

I’m always jazzed and energized after one of these shows; I feel like I’m really headed in the right direction.