Wednesday, July 16, 2014

About fabric dyes I use to colour my flowers

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Often I am asked what sort of dyes I use to colour fabrics for my pieces. And it is a very relevant question as not any fabric dyes could be used for our purposes. To start with I can say that acrylic fabric dyes are not suitable for a number of reasons. First, they are quite thick, they coat the fabric rather than just penetrate it thus changing the texture of it and they also stick to the millinery tools when we shape petals or leaves.
The right dyes to use when making silk flowers are so called aniline dyes, synthetic dyes that come in either liquid or powder form.
I started with these Russian made aniline dyes, which come in 11 rather strange completely artificial colours. They need careful mixing before one can come up with a suitable delicate colour to use on flowers.

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The advantage of any aniline dyes is that they are completely intermixable and diluted with water. The disadvantage is there is no white in the palette so the only way to create a tint is to add more water which sometimes does not give the desirable result.

I could not keep ordering liquid dyes from Russia, so I was on a hunt for local, British made aniline dyes. And at a craft exhibition in Birmingham I came across a stand with lots of different dyes, including the ones in the photo below:

It does not say anywhere on them what sort of dyes they are but they are just what the doctor ordered! And yes, these are dry powdered dyes. They last for ages, really economical but probably slightly more difficult to use than the liquid ones. The palette has 20+ colours, I just have 10 here, but mainly use Golden Yellow, Turquoise, Scarlet, Olive Green, Leaf Green and Green Lemon. Again, all intermixable and diluted with just water.

Another set of dyes I have come from Japan. They are liquid and come in little bottles with a pipette on top for measuring drops. They are called drop dyes.

 The drop dyes allow to recreate a complex colour every time you want to do it which is not really possible with powder dyes. All you need to do is to measure a certain about of water into a container and add a certain amount of 1-2-3-4 or how many required dyes into it. The amount of dyes is measured simply with drops. In some Japanese books on silk flower making there are charts which tell you how to mix dyes to get the particular colour for the flowers shown.
These dyes are the most expensive of all and unfortunately do not last that long, that is finish quite quickly.
The brushes you see in the picture come from Japan as well. They are designed to paint fabric flowers and are made of deer fur.

Although Japanese artists use little white plastic dishes to prepare colours for dyeing fabrics, I discovered that small portion sized jam jars work pretty well for me. Not only they are big enough, but also if any dye is left you can always cover the jar with a lid and save the precious dye from evaporating!

And lastly, as with any chemicals, one has to take precautions using aniline dyes. Please do not swallow or inhale the dry particles when working with them. Common sense above all!

To learn more about making flowers please check out our VIDEO tutorials on fabric flowers

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