Black and white on cotton

26 June 2006

Tomorrow we will have a DYE DAY here at the studio. This is a day when we dye for ourselves. We also invite a few nearby friends and occasionally one shows up.
I hope to get some black and white T-shirts to expand my summer wardrobe. It needs to be black and white, with maybe shades of grey but black, white, grey and pink would not be acceptable.
Getting black with any dye can be a challenge. It is easy to get dark grey but getting dark enough to get a black, ahh— that is a real achievement. Then there is the color of black— some blacks have a blue cast, others a red cast. Getting a neutral black is another piece of the puzzle. For me, getting black on cotton is much more difficult than getting black on silk. This is because the acids dyes that I use have a manufactured color that is a neutral black. Fiber reactives dyes, that are commonly used on cottons, have no black dye.
So a black fiber reactive dye for cotton has to be a mixed color; typically navy, gold and some red. Getting the right mix for this substrate and for this dyeing process is tricky. It is not a simple as buying a mixed black, a small change in process, say letting the dye-bath cool during processing instead of holding the temperature constant, can change the relative fixing of each dye color and the black has a red cast. So there are many different black mixes available and I have at least 3 different formulas that I mix myself.
Getting black and white, on cotton, in shibori is even more complicated. Shibori depends on diffusion of the dye for its fuzzy edges and each dye has a rate of diffusion dependent on its molecular structure (this is the basis of chromotography). Since a black mix has 3 dyes with 3 different molecular structures, the dyes tend to separate when they diffuse creating halos of different colors.

This is not a theoretical problem, it is a re-occurring one for me. Here are some pictures of my last attempt at black and white shibori on cotton.
I started with a cotton handwoven shawl from Colombia. I scoured it to remove naturally occurring pectins, spinning oils and any sizing used in weaving. The damp cloth was laid out on a flat surface and finger pleated across the width. The pleats were tied. The pleated, tied areas were alternated with untied sections.
cotton handwoven.tied.jpg
It was then dye black in an immersion bath. As you can see I got a reasonable black (I think the cloth is still wet in the photo). Note that the cotton string is a different color.
cotton handwoven.dyed.jpg
Opened, washed, dried and ironed the shawl reveals the dissapointing results.
cotton handwoven.overall.jpg
Here we see that the black ground is good but there is PINK. The pink becomes the dominate color and the impression is not black and white. Here are some details:
cotton handwove.detail 1.jpg cotton handwoven.detail2.jpg
Clearly there is black, white, grey and PINK halos!
So for tomorrow I have some T-shirts stitched and a new deep black mix of Procion MX dye from Pro-Chem , #609, an new formulated black (different red) of Cibacron F and and old black mix of Cibacron F. In the morning I will test all three with my process on cotton jersey and then pick which one I will try on the T-shirt in the afternoon. One more go at black and white on cotton.


3 Responses to “Black and white on cotton”

  1. Lynne Says:

    Have you ever tried using black vat dye with shibori on cotton? It works in reduction like indigo, is very fast and VERY BLACK! I used the ProCHem brand on linen and got an almost photographic effect. (Someday I’ll have a digital camera to show images!)
    Some of the thread I used was dyed linen and the color transferred to my fabric.. a happy accident.


  2. Karren Says:

    I have never used black vat dye on cotton, I actually dye very little cotton. I’m pleased to know that it gives a nice black. I have used vat dyes and have gotten a nice black on cotton with direct dyes. Vat dyes should have better fastness, direct dyes are usually not very wash-fast.
    Since black usually accounts for 50% of the goods dyed, not being able to get a black with Procion MX dyes is a very big limitation.


  3. louise Says:

    Thank you guys.


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