… because it was so much fun. After my last silk wrap did not quite work out as I planned, I thought carefully about what might have gone wrong and I think I came up with a reasonable explanation. Once you know what went wrong, it’s not too hard to put it right.

Silk dye has to be made permanent with the addition of a fixative. I use soda ash (plus salt and a couple of other things, but the soda ash is the important fixative). You can add the soda ash to the dye solution and paint it all onto the fabric together. That makes sure that there is sufficient fixative available to bond dye and fabric permanently. Going with this method sounds like a no-brainer, but there is a downside to it. Once you mix the soda ash with the dye, the mixture has a short life span. It only lasts for about an hour before the dye capacity deteriorates. Anything left over after a dye session has to be discarded. To avoid this you can keep the soda ash and the dye separate, in which case you can then keep any left over dye in the fridge for weeks, until the next project. I guess it is a way of conserving dye, which is expensive. But in my case, because of the large pieces of silk I like to use, it is possibly false economy. Letting the dye mix lack enough soda ash to fix the dye into the fabric during the painting process makes the painting process ineffective, and therefore wastes dye just the same as throwing away leftovers.

Before I realised this, I have tried to keep dye and fixative separate, by soaking the silk in the soda ash solution, then squeezing it out a bit and hanging it up onto my frame. If I was working with cotton jersey, the fabric would be capable of soaking up and holding quite a lot of the soda ash liquid, enough to fix the dye once it is painted on. But silk is VERY thin. Once I have hung it up it is still wet, but the amount of soda ash solution in the fabric is not a lot.

So when I then take a big brush and a lot of liquid dye to rapidly cover the silk with my all-over undercoat (usually the lightest colour), I probably end up washing a lot of the soda ash solution out of the fabric with the dye that drips through the fabric to the ground. This first coat gets fixed with what soda ash there is, but the next, darker colour probably has no soda ash left to act as a fixative. Hence it washes out. To make matters worse, with the previous project I also used a soda ash solution that I had made up weeks beforehand, maybe not such a good idea.

I did notice that a lot of dye washed out of that previous, unsuccessful wrap when I rinsed it, lending weight to the idea that there was not enough soda ash available to fix the dye into the fabric.

So with the next project I made sure to supply lots of fixative. I soaked the silk in the soda ash solution as before, but tried not to squeeze it out too much. Then I put some of the fixative solution in a spray mist bottle and made sure the silk was throughly soaked before I started painting it with the dye. After the application of the first coat of dye I sprayed again with the soda ash solution. Then I put on the next coat. Then more soda ash spray, another, darker colour and finally another spray with the soda ash.

This is it wet.

To stop the inevitable drying process to be too fast, I I started late in the day after the sun had gone out of my yard and only an hour or so before the daylight started to fade. When I checked five hours later in the dark at 9pm, the silk wrap was still very wet. Not much dye came off on my fingers, telling me that most of it had been fixed into the fabric. Success!

So here is the wrap once washed and dried. The colour is still nearly as intense as when it was wet. It is the first time I have achieved this, usually the dried colours have been less intense. I am not sure if it is due to the red/pink colour scheme, or because I sprayed so much fixative onto the silk during the painting process. I am hoping for the latter.



Scrumptious, even if I say so myself. I used slightly different colours this time, as it is for DDIL, who requested a ‘dark pink’. I hope she likes it!

I think in future I will just add the fixative chemicals in with the dye. I am getting quite good at judging how much dye I need to mix up for a project, and to be honest, I am not that fond of dye jars in my fridge. There is enough edible junk in there without any strange chemicals that someone might drink by mistake. I will keep spraying with the soda ash solution though, at least when painting large pieces. Small scarves are probably OK  without extra fixative, although it might help to make the last coat, usually the darkest colour, more pronounced.

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