Before I took my refresher dye course at the Textile Arts Center this summer, I decided to attempt an ombré effect with some rags for what would eventually be woven into a rag rug. Our duvet cover had seem better days due to our little muffin kneading fur-balls; it was worst for the wear. I tore it up into 1" strips (they really should be smaller, but the fabric is rather worn and thin). Then, I tied bunches of them together to get ready for the dye pot.
Now, this was the first time I tried to dye something a) old and b) a cotton blend. Yes, that's right. I've only had acid dyeing experience, which involves protein based fibers: wool, alpaca, mohair, silk, etc. Now don't get me wrong, it was a blast to do, but holy crap the results were less than wonderful. But at least the process shots were pretty cool:
So what did I learn here that I would like to pass onto you? Dyeing old stuff is difficult to do - if it's been through the wash a million times or if it's just pilled all to heck it's not going to take dye well. The reason is that washing, especially with the alkaline soaps we use, will break down the fiber. In turn, it's less likely to take on any sort of dye. Also, procion dyes* tend to be less vibrate in general. That is, I have difficulty getting even virgin fiber to take on vibrant color.
Also, I did something I haven't done in a while - I didn't follow the directions to a T. I'm much more of a cook than baker, and this has even gotten me into trouble when following food recipes. I skimmed the directions thinking I knew what was going on since I've done so much acid dyeing, but low and behold it is a bit different to use procion dyes. I didn't use the wrong ingredients - I wasn't being reckless - I just didn't soak things properly and added the color kicker at the wrong time. Oops.
Anyway, after I set the color in the rags, I washed and dried them and the color faded even more. Next time I'll follow the directions.
Even so, I wove them into a rag rug. All in all, it looks alright!
*Procion dyes are dyes used to create color for cellulose fiber. Cellulose fibers are plant based fibers: cotton, bamboo, rayon, etc.