Some of this process is easier than other bits. I’m finding out that getting a white t-shirt to be a black t-shirt is one of the more difficult parts. This weekend I’ve run two batches, and come up with two very different results.

One result was a super pretty dove grey –
And while I’m pleased with how the tees came out, and even put some up on the Etsy, friends, grey is just not black.

So after that batch, I made some calls and asked people who know stuff about cold process dyeing. I told those people my process, and they hmm’d and huh’d, and we came up with two possible problems, so I worked on them.

One possible issue was the way I’ve been working with the soda ash. So far I’ve been pouring the crystals into the dye bath at the end and agitating the water to dissolve it. One of the recommendations I got was to dissolve the soda ash in water before adding it to the fabric. Easy. I added it to my list.

The next recommendation that I got was to raise the temperature on the dye bath a little bit. One important thing I didn’t really account for is that these dyes just won’t do much of anything unless the water is over 70º. I really hadn’t paid very much attention to the water temp, to be honest – 70º just doesn’t seem very warm, so, um… I’ve been winging it.

I went back to the basement last night, determined to pay attention to the temp, and keep it in the right range. I started my dye bath around 80º, and kicked in. When it got to the soda ash, I dissolved it in some water around 90º, and poured it in when it got a touch cooler.

And I made a total mess out of my work. Also, I got dark blue instead of black x.x

As you can see at the right, the water was warm enough to make the dye work better, but it was also warm enough to penetrate the wax where it wasn’t really painted on there like whoa. So everything that I had painted another color and covered in wax got an immersion in black (blue, actually), and a bunch of the wax chipped right off. Gah.

But this is how this stuff goes, I guess – forward and backward. That’s the learning curve. My job now is to find the, “butter zone,” temperature for the dye bath* – warm enough for the dye to properly activate, and cool enough to not play with the integrity of the wax.

In the Good News department, I got a bunch of lightweight, super soft t-shirts to work with \o/

*Also, I need to work on glove technique – I keep getting sloppage inside the gloves, and  my hands kinda look like I’ve been working on cars.

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