Acrylic Dye Experiments Page2

Most of the time, when I have fabrics in the “wrong” color,  I only wish to shift the color slightly.  Like I have cream and want tan; or daffodil and want beige. If the undesired color is a supporting color, I just go with it.

I may make a point of adding embroidery or other embellishments to bring out the desired colors which BTW will visually “push back” the undesired color. If you don’t understand what I’m saying, you must spend your own time becoming acquainted with the properties and characteristics of color.  Color, such a natural and taken-for-granted element of our world, has it’s own language and takes on a life of it’s own. 

When the undesired color is a major element or the background, then I feel I really must do something or not use the fabric at all.  In 2011 I considered dye.  You know get a bucket of color and dump in the whole fabric.  I’d not had success with Rit dyes.  The color wouldn’t be right i.e too light or not the color I wanted.  Interestingly, sometimes the fabric wouldn’t dye but the next load in the washer would. What fun.  I never attempted boiling on top of the stove.  The thought of having to first fill and then dump that big ‘ol bucket made my back hurt; we’ll not even consider my thoughts on being scorched by scalding water. An outside heating station was not available.  Anyway, Rit dyes were not easy and convenient for me, YMMV. I needed an alternative.

I searched the internet and then turned to my friends at Stitchers Guild asking about other dye products and procedures. I was unprepared for the range of answers and strong opinions. Which left me more confused and inclined to hold up silver crosses rather than continue experiments.  I looked for other possibilities for visually shifting color.

I was in the process of heavily stenciling one particular fabric and with lots of acrylic paint,  when it occurred to me there might be a way to use acrylic paints in dye fashion.

So I pulled out the next not-quite-the-right-color fabric.

This is a 100% cotton fabric purchased from earlier in 2012. I bought it thinking it was blouse weight and an over all grey.  I was much surprised to find that in-hand, an ugly-t0-me green dominated the color scheme.  I decided to keep it as I am low on muslin fabric.  Now I looked again and said could I do something to the entire yardage which would make the color acceptable for my wearing?

I needed to prepare the fabric. I wash all fabrics (except wools) as soon as they come in the door. Honest they come in the front door and go immediately to the serger.  At the serger, both raw edges are finished and then the fabrics are placed in the laundry cart.  They are washed, dried and then ironed (but not starched). Yes ironed.  Ironing forces me to examine the surface for any flaws–either flaws when purchased or that have developed as a result of laundering.  There have been few fabrics which went into the trash instead of my stash.  Many more are marked with safety pins, folded and placed into the stash.  Safety pins?  I mark the flaws now when I see them.  I know from experience that I will forget that there even was a flaw let alone where it was.  I use the big quilting safety pins to mark the flaws. The big pins are easy on the hands and hard to miss when it’s time to actually cut the fabric.  BTW, I’ve had more fabrics that looked better after the laundry than fabrics that went immediately into the trash.

So all the sizing had already been removed from this fabric; and no flaws had been found.  I had a particular procedure in mind and so continued with some preparations.

I cut the 44″ wide yardage into 28″ long pieces.   A 2 yard piece of fabric can be difficult for me to man-handle.  A 28″ long piece is long enough for blouse front, back or sleeves but still short enough that I can whip it around instead of struggling.  I arrived at this length though my machine embroidery process.  There are times when it’s easier to embroider first and cut the fabric last.  You get a much more accurate placement of the embroidery elements and if errors or disaster occurs, your whole project is not a loss, just one piece (usually). I found the same length handy for other embellishments i.e. long lines of stitching at the sewing machine and even stenciling or painting fabric.

After cutting into 28″ long pieces, I trimmed a 4″ square from the basic fabric (shown above) then  I serged the newly raw edges and put the fabric back into the wash.  I didn’t dry it. No I knew that for my procedure I wanted the paint to spread easily so I didn’t dry the fabric but I did press it using steam to remove any wrinkles.

While waiting for the laundry, I cleared my cutting table and then covered it with a sheet of plastic.  I’m fortunate to have a large cutting table.  It is 3 foot wide and 6 foot long.  It does take up the center of a large room but believe me, it’s worth it. I started some experiments:


In the swatch above, acrylic paint has been brushed onto the left side side.  A black Inkstik was rubbed on the right side.  I was pleased with the use of the Inkstik. It broke immediately so I was handling a 2″ piece, but it grazed the fabric and deposited color lightly.  I preferred the blue color on the left.  For future reference I allowed the sample to sit over night then I heat set it.

Out of the washer and  wet I spread my fabric upon the table.

Next I selected my acrylic paint.  I’m using a crafter’s acrylic paint purchased at Walmart.  I’m using the Apple Barrel brand in Blue Hawaii.  I wanted a juicy paint that would spread quickly on the wet fabric.  I poured all 2 ounces in an empty cool whip container and then filled the empty bottle with distilled water.  I use distilled water because my water is heavily saturated.  Safe to drink, but there’s a whole lot of iron and calcium content which might be an issue with paints and dye. I swished the distilled water around in the bottle and finally poured it out into the same cool whip container.  Then using an ice-cream stick, I’m not really “green” just cheap, so using a cleaned ice cream stick, I stirred the paint and the water until it was evenly mixed.

I  dipped a 1″ brush into paint wiped slightly and then dotted it across the fabric.  This is one of those cheap brushes you buy because you’re only going to use it for 5 minutes and then throw it away.  This particular brush got bent and misshapen in a hurry.  I realized right away that it would be great for special effects. Like now when I didn’t want a brush stroke but an uneven dribbling of paint which would spread. The brush did fine. The paint –not what I wanted.  I wanted it to spread far and wide; and do it quickly too. I added more water to the paint… without effect.  I sprayed the fabric with water. Ah much better especially if I brush after dabbling.  So I’d spray, dabble, brush but sometimes that didn’t quite work the way I wanted.  The paint would still pool in places and then it wouldn’t move.  Now this is all still moist, not dripping wet. Nowhere near dry and the paint doesn’t want to move?  So I dip the brush into water and brush -fully loaded with water- onto fabric. Ah, much better.   Finally I started brushing the fabric with water, dabbling with paint, brushing and when needed brushing with more water.  When I was satisfied, each piece had been evenly (sort of) covered with paint and was dripping wet.

I folded the pieces inward and lifted them off the plastic; attached skirt hangers and hung them in the downstairs bathroom over night. I”m pleased but not excited:

All photos clickable for larger view

The fabric has picked up a blue tone instead of the original grey. But the ugly green, is still green I want it to be more blue or or anything but ugly green.  IMO nothing I do to this fabric is wrong or in error. If I can change the color great. If I can’t, well it’s been designated “muslin” since it arrived.  So I’m thinking, what else could I do to make this more blue?


2 thoughts on “Acrylic Dye Experiments Page2

  1. Well, I don’t know a ton about colour, but I guess you can make blue from green. If you did something with purple or red your green would turn brown. If with yellow your green would turn greener. With orange you’d get a brown green I think…. I’d be tempted to do purple myself as I like purple and brown together, but I don’t know if that would suit you.

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