Take on the wonderful world of dyeing your own, make the colours you want when you want. A small amount of dedication and organisation will bring colourful rewards. I've started a journey which is just beginning- but have simplified ways of dyeing with a handy economic method useing Procion Fibre Reactive dyes in a more painterly way, suitable for you to be able to add colourful fabric and even papers to your repertoire of arty techniques for your work
Frida Purse, hand dyed velvet lace and fibres
Rich and vibrant, deep and subtle, or eye popping clashing need your sunglasses colours. Are you hankering after your own colourful vision. Do you need that particular shade of lime green to go with that luscious deep magenta pink.  Have you considered Procian Fibre Reactive dyes. Do they seem frightening and complicated, a little too much work. Well you may be surprised and more than gratified by their results. I found that its wonderful to have a stash of my favourite coloured materials or paper to hand, or to be able to dye them on demand for my art projects

I was  at the Knitting Stitching show when I saw the most gorgeous piece of dyed velvet, sort of burnt yellow going into rusty orange. I had to look at it for some time, to take the glorious colour in, thinking of the possibilities. It was on Stef Francis' stall, the Queen of dyeing. I know she has been dyeing from way back (when I used to belong to the Embroiders Guild in the 80's)and using her dyed textiles in her exciting embroideries. She mainly uses Procion Dyes to obtain the strong rich hues in her colours. I used to attend batik workshops and had a few nearly empty pots of Procion dyes left over which I now was eager to try and replicate this colour combination. What resulted was not really similar but to me equally beautiful. I had to get into dyeing further so I started to research. The information I found didn't seem to apply to my needs, I didn't want to dye in a gallon vat, nor tie dye for kids parties. My quest was for small amounts, painting on the dye using various colour combos, or dyeing some beautiful variegated ribbon for my future work, the techniques and recipes weren't suitable. Being used to mixing colour in my painting, I wanted more of a controlled painterly approach So I decided to experiment and find my own way.

About Procion Fibre Reactive dyes.
These dyes come in a powder form and are mixed with liquid chemical solution to fix and make washing and lightfast. Its not difficult once you have the recipe and know how long to developed the dye. They are used with natural fibres, Silk, Cotton,Wool, Wood and Viscose Rayon a man made cellulose fibre made from trees. They wont work with polyester, nylon, acetate etc the dye runs off, for these you can use fabric paints dyes such as  Dye-na Flow, and Dylon.

Materials and costs

I needed the raw materials, mainly the dyes at a reasonable price, so after much searching and comparing  in UK and US, Dharma Trading Company   came out tops. In the UK you by 2/3 oz pot for 5 ($10) approx, in the US at Dharma they sell a 2oz pot for $4 (2) approx. So I did the maths. Plus the range of colours available is fabulous. I don't feel the need to pay more than necessary for materials wherever I can and even with the postage, buying 8 colours was a great saving. You may take some time in choosing your colours from their vast array. (Un fortunately Dharma don't sell to the UK so if you have a friend in the states, like I did you're in luck) Two other ingredients  are necessary, these are urea and soda ash used for fixing the dye permanence. To buy these in the UK I found Candle Makers supplies opposite Olympia Exhibition Centre where they will also sell the Fibre reactive dyes.

So then I sourced my fabric. Dharma trading also have silk/rayon velvet at a very cheap price, in the UK you can pay 18 per meter whereas Dharma sell it for $12 (6 approx ) and cotton velvet for $10 (5 ). Their fabrics are not pre-treated which is preferable, so you dont have to pre-wash them.  I found an Indian shop in Brick Lane that had white cotton velvet, double width so I bought 3yards (18) to keep me happy, for a while. The reason I mention the costs is that with a reasonable initial outlay, you have potentially masses of beautiful dyed pieces with which to work on and experiment with. I hate having tiny amounts of something, as it prevents me from feeling creative. Some other useful materials that will last for a while I bought are :- White Hug Snug rayon seam binding, a roll will give you 100 yards of silky 1/2 inch ribbon to space dye in the colours of your choice. Great for tags and embellishing.They also carry Rayon/cotton  Venise lace which is always beautiful to hand dye/paint in several colours. I also found this seller on ebay with a great range available. Wool fibres and fancy mixed fibres such as Colinette yarns in the pastel shades
are very useful to overdye. They usually come in large hanks, so you can get a bunch of different colours to co-ordinate with your fabrics. Dye them at the same time as you dye your fabrics


So having gathered your materials together. 
You need:- Procion Dyes, Urea, Soda Ash, Fabrics / ribbon/lace etc you want to dye.

You will also need (now this obviously depends on the size of your fabric you're dyeing ) plastic sheet (bags cut up is fine) a tray with sides. I used a kitty litter tray, also plastic storage box lids can be found at Ikea. Basically something to allow the fabric to be spread out flat on.  Jam jars and mixing pots, I found a palate
( Early Learning Centre) with 3inch deep wells that is just right for mixing up a variety of colours. Protective gloves if you don't want the rainbow effect hands. Sponge brushes in some different widths 1-3 inches wide, or thick brushes will do, one for each colour you mix

I don't like to waste anything. Usually most fibre reactive recipes result in throwing leftover dye away, as when the ingredients are mixed together they only last for 10 hours. Even though I mix up small amounts as needed I devised a different more economical procedure.

The recipe.
You will find many other recipes, but, I made this in small amounts to avoid waste and is easy to do.

In one jar measure 1/2 teaspoon of soda ash plus 1 teaspoon of (household/cooking) bi-carbonate of soda with 1/4 pint warm water

In another jar measure 3 teaspoons urea mixed with 1/4pint of warm water

Now if you require more you can double the quantities. It can be labelled and stored for future use



Working Method

Cut up the fabric amount you want. At first you may prefer to do some practise trials on small pieces, or go straight ahead with a piece big enough for a purse/book cover, pouch.
Cover working area with protective plastic sheet.

Soak the fabric in the soda ash solution, cotton velvet will soak up more than most fabrics, squeeze to get all over coverage, but it doesn't have to be sopping wet. Excess can be returned to the jar.

Lay out fabric. Whatever colours you are choosing, and 3 will give some nice mixes. Mix 1/2 teaspoon or 1/4 teaspoon of your dye powder (dry spoon) in different small containers with  some  of the urea /water mix ( and amounts of urea water will vary with the size of fabric, and the intensity of colour required, but with some practise you will get an idea of the amounts you require for different types/amounts of fabric ). Mix up with a plastic spoon or brush to a paintable consistency

Dip your brush  and usually working from the lightest to darkest in the first colour  paint on your fabric. Because it is already damp with the fix, the colour will spread reasonably easy. Apply the dye to wherever you want then take the second colour into other areas then build up with the third colour, overlapping to create secondary colours and tertiary (3 colours mixed together).

You will witness some amazing  hues. Depending on the colour you have chosen, you may feel that it might be too strong/ vivid. More urea water can be added, (the colour will later dry slightly paler so allow for this). 3 colours together overlapping can result in a muddy colour. Some knowledge of the colour mixing wheel will be an advantage. i.e. warm hues red orange yellow will go together well, blue yellow and green or blue, magenta and purple all will work together. The whole subject of colour and mixing is an article in itself . But trial and practise will tell you what you like and you think is successful. Too much of an intense colour can be blotted up with some paper towel. Keep these for use in other projects
Fixing your fabric
So when you have your fabric piece dyed, cover with some plastic bag and if you have a radiator, you can put near it to help the dye develop or somewhere warm, but I've done it without and it was fine. Leave for 24 hours. Then rise in warm water. You will see some colour being rinsed out, but this is normal--dry and admire. You can iron smooth or try wrinkling up velvet for a crushed look.
To dye silk or rayon ribbon, Space Dyeing
Cut your length say 3 yards. Soak in the jar of soda ash mix, squeeze out excess and lay in tray or on plastic folded to fit but not touching each other. Mix up your dyes separately  with the urea mix as in previous method you  wont need so much for ribbons
Paint on your 3 colours at intervals, letting colours merge randomly, adding water urea to dilute if needed
You can let set for 24 hours as before or you can try this quicker method :-
Fix in the Microwave
Put your ribbon in a ziplock bag big enough for plenty of room for expansion. Leave the opening partly open. Put in your microwave and blast on full power for 2 minutes stopping every now and then to allow the steam to die down so it doesn't burst ( now you really don't want this to happen so watch carefully ) Let cool down before opening. Then rinse under the tap and dry. You can now build up a gorgeous collection of your very own themed colour embellishments. Also look out for cotton or rayon ric rak, it looks lovely in a variegated colourway.
Dyeing on Paper
If you do have any dyes leftover at the end of your session, you can put into small bottles/containers labelled for another day, or consider going a bit mad by sploshing it over paper, any will do, even recycled items such as envelopes, and newspapers, tags, photo copies, tissue, anything to hand. The colour can be used like an ink or watercolour paint and wont deteriorate and you will have some cool papers to use later.
Redyeing
If you want to redye your fabric, you can resoak in the soda ash solution and repaint. Overdying existing suitable fabrics can completely change their appearence, and make them more interesting to use.

What colours to choose.
Looking at the
colour charts, you might be overwhelmed. But its always a good idea to get the basics first from which you can mix most hues. But colours can be funny there are warm yellows and cool yellows and depending on which you choose the result can be slightly muddier or clearer. With yellow, its also a good idea to get double the amount as this can get used up the fastest. So go for Brilliant yellow and Golden yellow. A Magenta red (often called Fuchsia )which has a blue tinge plus a Brilliant red which has a yellow tinge will give different purples, and a turquoise blue and a brilliant blue also mix differently. Brown is useful to tone down and make subtle hues, Black and I also loved the Burnt Orange, Hot Pink and Burgundy.
Dyeing for your Art
There are so many projects that your hand-dyed fabrics can be used with. Collaged together with other dyed textures, velvet and satin, lace and ribbons. Contrasting the colours to make scintillating compositions or harmoniously blending them together, adding beads, charms buttons for definition and highlights. Machine stitching and or hand embroidery stitches, adding sheer organza or metallics with Wonder Under to give more surface interest. Purses pouches, journal covers, covered boxes, dolls and danglies spring to mind.
Look out for colour combinations that grab you buy your eye, and experiment how to achieve them. When mixing the dye brush the colour onto a piece of paper and note its name/ what you used to mix it with the date, and you'll have a record to replicate. Play about mixing your hues and shades-a tiny bit of turquoise added to yellow can make a gorgeous lime, sometimes just a small amount is all that's required to modify a colour. Try the colour out on paper as you go along. You can produce some very subtle colours, they don't all need to be harsh and bright. I guarantee you'll change your world with intoxicating colours
Gillian Allen 01 006
more purses here:

Yellow Batch :Yellow with a touch of turquoise on cotton velvet, rayon seam binding, rayon ric rac and Colinette fibres
some links for supplies, in UK also
Ribbonsmyth interesting fibres for dyeing
Magic for fabric squares of fabric for dyeing UK
Dharmatrading everything you need in the US
Sewbizfabrics Hug Snug Rayon Ribbon 100yds
Eug5 ebay trader Venise Lace on ebay
Rainbow silks Procion dyes and paints UK
Whaleys-Bradford.ltd Fabrics UK
Kateskloths squares of fabric for dyeing
Candle Makers supplies Chemicals in UK
Paula Burch  more info on all types of dyeing
Colinette yarn I bought this in 'morroco' colourway
Stef Francis
Dantona.41 Brick Lane E1 London tel:1712471599
Sells wide cotton velvet at a reasonable price.


Blue burnt orange and fushia painted onto cotton velvet
Red Batch: Fushia, Hot Pink, Burgundy and Yellow, used to dye cotton velvet, rayon ribbon, ricrac and fibres
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