Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dyeing My Couch

Last weekend I made a new futon cover. It's hard to find fabric of any kind in these parts, so I ordered a length of cotton duck from Dharma Trading Company (along with a bunch of other cotton and silk fabrics for future projects). After I washed and preshrank the duck cloth (from the Dutch word doek, not the waterfowl,according to Wikipedia), I dyed it shades of green. You can see in this photograph the fabric (in the early morning mist) alongside the color inspiration.

I used what Paula Burch calls the low water immersion technique, with Procion dyes. Duck cloth is too coarsely woven to show the delicate color gradations this approach to dye application can produce on silk and fine cotton, but the pleat patterning did give pleasing results. Here's my step-by-step procedure.

  1. Washed the 10-yard length of duck, and dried it on high heat for maximum shrinkage.
  2. Cut fabric to length of couch. Luckily, the fabric was wide enough to allow me to use only two futon-lengths.
  3. Weighed the cut yardage to determine how much dye to use. The Dharma Trading catalog has charts that tell how much of each Procion dye color to use per pound of fabric. The 4.25 pounds of duck cloth required 1 ounce of "Golden Yellow" dye and 2.125 ounces of a mixture of "Midnight Blue" and "Electric Blue." I didn't have enough of either dye to make the full amount needed.
  4. Folded the fabric lengths in half, then accordion pleated them, coiled them, and placed each in the bottom of a plastic bucket. (I divided the dye and fixative solutions between the buckets.)
  5. Poured just enough hot water on each piece of fabric to completely wet it.
  6. Dissolved the yellow and blue dyes in separate containers. I know from experience that the yellow and blue Procion dyes migrate through fabric and "strike" at similar rates. Since I wanted different color intensities in different areas, I poured the yellow dye on the fabric, with just enough water to cover the fabric. I waited 30 minutes, then added the blue dyes the same way.
  7. After 60 minutes, I added a solution of soda ash (washing soda) to each bucket. I used 1.5 cups of soda ash for 4.25 pounds of cotton (calculated from the Dharma Trading Company table). I used about a gallon of water to dissolve the soda ash, and I poured the fixing solution on slowly, down the side of the bucket.
  8. After the fabric mixture stood overnight (about 14 hours total) I rinsed out the dye, washed the fabric again, and hung it on the clothesline to dry.
  9. Ironed the fabric and sewed the two pieces together in a big pillow case. I pulled this over the mattress, and hand-sewed the open ends together. I used to put zippers in these futon covers because the ready-made ones had them, but zipping and unzipping was not much faster than stitching and unstitching, and it was a nuisance to put in those long, long zippers.

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