This is an e-mail discussion I had earlier today with my friend Fran.  It is slightly edited.  I decided to post it because I thought someone might find it interesting.  Also, if anyone has any answers to Fran’s question, please, feel free to comment.


Fran wrote:

 I don’t know about you guys, but I’m having withdrawal now that QU is over.  I can’t get focused.  It was such a fun weekend and I enjoyed both the classes I took and the one I taught.  I couldn’t get over how productive those women were.  I think it reflects the quality of our guild and the previous teachers my students have had through the guild.

One thing I would like your opinions on:  I dyed most of my fabrics in Cindy’s class in straight dye, no diluting.  I let them bake in the car all the next day.  Then I rinsed them out a lot Sunday night.  Soaked them in some water overnight and rinsed them once the next morning.  Then I took them to the Laundramat and washed them with Synthrpol.  They came out very faded.  Did I rinse them too much or did I use too much Synthropol?  Does Synthropol have a bleaching effect? 

Even after baking them in my car, one of the pieces I rinsed out on Sunday night still had active enough dye that it stained my hand.



 Ginia wrote:


Here are some things that can cause the colors to look washed out or pale:

1)      The temperature dropped below 65 degrees before the processing was completed.

2)      The dye powder was too old.  (Some books say you shouldn’t use dye powders that are more than 2 years old.  ProChem says 5 years.  Since ProChem is the manufacturer we use, I go with their estimate.)

3)      The piece was allowed to dry before the process was completed.

4)      You forgot to add the dye activator (soda ash).

About washing out:

I wash and soak until the rinse water runs clear and then use the synthrapol.   Synthrapol is a soap not a bleach, so I don’t think it could cause the dye to run.  Its purpose is to lift any inert dye residue from the fabric.  I have never found two washes to be enough to get all the excess dye out.  Yellow is the easiest and usually stops running first, red second, blue and black take the longest.  In this last batch we dyed at my house, it took 7 washes before the blues stopped running.

If you don’t wash your fabric until it stops running, it will continue to run after you use it in a quilt.  It is a lot harder to get the dye stains out of a completed quilt than it is a piece of fabric.


Fran replied:

Thanks, Ginia.

None of those conditions occurred.   I wonder if it was her fabric.  Some of it was from JoAnn’s and was soft.  I will keep your tips for future use.




If the fabric was not properly prepared, i.e. washed in Syntrapol) that could cause the faded look.  The synthrapol removes all the chemical treatments, sizing, etc. from the fabric, so they don’t interfier with the dyeing process.

Did she provide the dye solution already mixed?  If so, if it was mixed up more than 2 days ahead it could have lost its potency.  Also, a lot of times the instructors in these classes mix these dyes for a medium value rather than a dark value.  This saves on the cost of the dye powders and the medium values are the most popular.  When we dye together, I always mix the dye solution at the darkest value and we dilute it to get the medium or light values.

How did you add the activator?  Did you add it as a liquid, which dilutes the dye solution?   Or, did you pre-soak in soda ash and dry the fabric, which would not dilute the dye at all?



When we got there she was already filling buckets with ash water or adding it to water (hot), but I’m not sure which way she did it.  It is possible my fabric was too wet since I soaked it and then just squeezed it.  However, when I dyed the fabric and looked at it on Sunday night, the colors looked dark.  From now on, I’m going to try to soak my fabrics in the ash water ahead of time.  I learned.  My pieces still came out nice, just not as dark as I would have liked. 

Thanks for your help.