Experimenting with Sun Resist Dyeing

When writing about my latest Shibori project, I alluded to some sun dyeing I had attempted.  After that first attempt, I decided to do some experimenting to determine the best protocol to use for sun resist dyeing.

I set up the first set of samples about a month ago. Two weeks ago I finished the first trial and started the second set.  This past weekend, with beautiful weather, I was able to complete these trials.

In order to created colorful fabric, something is needed that combines with dye to fix or bind it to the fabric. In low immersion dyeing, the mordant most commonly used is soda ash (sodium carbonate). When silk dyeing, the mordant I used was vinegar. For natural dyeing processes, soymilk is commonly used with plant extracts. While not actually a mordant, the soy act as a binding agent between the fabric and dye.

The idea behind sun resist dyeing is that objects placed on the wet soy-treated fabric will block the suns rays from activating the soy binding of the dye to the fabric.

Having read several different articles about dyeing with soymilk, I first wanted to compare the different ways of prepping the fabric and dyeing the fabric. Some textile artists use just soy milk, some use powder from soybeans and other use soda ash as a pretreatment. So I set up to test several different combinations of pretreatment and dyeing.

For pretreatment, I used used three old pieces of partially dyed fabric (browns and khaki dyes). Each piece was pretreated with either soy milk (1 cup diluted with 3 cups water), soy powder (1/4 cup powder diluted with 4 cups hot water), or soda ash (4 tsp each of soda ash and salt, diluted in 4 cups hot water).

After pretreatment, the fabrics were allowed to dry completely.

Mixing Blue dye (1/4 tsp) was then mixed with soy milk, soy powder or soda ash (similar dilutions as above) and painted on one-third of each piece of fabric. The fabrics were placed in the sun with various shaped buttons set on top. After the fabrics dried, they were washed with Retayne and dried in the dryer.

Fabric was pretreated with soymilk.
Fabric was pretreated with soda ash.
Fabric was pretreated with soy powder.

Based upon these test samples, pretreatment of the fabric with soy powder did not result in very strong binding of the blue dye to the fabric. Furthermore, mixing the dye with soy powder did not result in any binding of the blue dye to the fabric. Pretreatment with either soy milk or soda ash was successful in dye binding. However, only the mixing the dye with soy milk cause the sun resist to be visible.

I did a second round of experimenting to verify my findings. In this experiment, the fabric was pretreated with soy milk (left side) or soda ash (right side) and dyed with three different colors of dye (Golden Yellow, Fuschia and Mixing Red) mixed with soymilk.

Wet dye painted, leaves placed to block sun.
Samples after drying in sun
Samples after washing with Retayne.

I love the results! I can’t wait to do more sun resist dyeing.

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