An Experiment on Silk with Easter Egg Dyes

Alanna Heaton 2005

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I didn't have any directions to start off with so this is how I hand-dyed some silk with Easter Egg Dyes. There are some things that HAVE to happen before you can dye. First, the only dyes that will work are the vinegar based tablet dyes. Second, make sure your fabric is ***scoured *** well. I washed mine in Synthrapol, rinsed well, then soaked in white vinegar. DO NOT use cider vinegar unless you want a "dirty" cast to your fabrics. I used about a 9" x 12" piece of silk. I tore the pieces off the yardage rather than cut it to keep the grain straight. Silk is so wiggly it is hard to cut it straight. Then mix your dyes with warm white vinegar in plastic cups. Cover your work surface with something waterproof. Either plastic or foil works well. I used painter's plastic sheet drop cloths and cut them to the size I needed for my work surface.

Now you are ready to have some fun! The easiest way to dye a piece of silk this size is just to crunch it up and stuff it into the dye. The more you work the silk around the more evenly it will dye. If you crumple it up tightly and don't stir it around you will get a mottled effect.


On these two examples, the pink was crumpled and put in the red dye. The orange was created by mixing yellow and red together to get orange and also putting in a crumpled piece of silk. The results are a couple of cool colors in the pastel range. You will NOT get deep brilliant colors from the egg dyes, just pastels.

Having read that some of my favorite dye effects on silk were made by using salt on the wet just-dyed fabric, I tried this with my silks. These two pieces I laid down damp from vinegar on my work surface. I then used an eyedropper (available at drug stores and pharmacy departments quite inexpensively) to randomly drop dyes on the fabric.   

When I thought the colors looked good, I sprinkled on some Kosher salt flakes. This gives a better "pull" effect than plain table salt. The wetter the piece is with dye, the better the effect from salt. Remember, this will not look like professionally dyed and salted pieces as the chemistry of acid dyes and silk salt is somewhat different. For neat, quick and easy colors that are very useable however, this is a great method.

  I also tried a couple of other things that gave me some good useable pieces. I crumpled up another piece of silk and dyed it yellow. Then I put it down on my work surface and dropped some other colors on it that I thought would look good together.  
You'll get some neat color interaction depending on what color you used as your base. You can even use the salt here to add to the effect. The fabric that looks like it has the measles was fun to create. Just lay your vinegar damp fabric on your work surface and drop colors wherever your whims dictate.   

When you are done dyeing, rinse all the pieces well in cool water. I just rinse and squeeze out under running tap water. Next, get a bowl of warm water and add some Synthrapol to it. Swish each piece thoroughly and squeeze the Synthrapol through it a few times then rinse again.

Add some Retayne or dye fixer to cool water, add the silks, stir around for a bit and let sit for at least 15 min. for permanent color. Rinse and iron dry.

  Last but not least, this is a great way to keep the kids or grand kids busy. This last piece was done by our grandnephew Brian. He just loved doing this. He also learned a bit of science as I had him pick up his colors by putting a skinny straw into the dye, then holding his finger over the top to keep the dye in until he got the straw over his fabric. The dye drops onto the fabric when he takes his finger off thus learning about atmospheric pressure!  

I hope this gives you enough information and inspiration to go out and buy all those leftover egg dyes and start creating your own color scheme fabrics!

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