Monday, August 25, 2014

Dye Testing: Brand 3 Results

That's it, I'm done! I can finally say that I'm glad this testing phase is over and I can begin doing the fun part of dyeing...making beautiful new colorways. I've mentioned before how important the testing phase is for me, and how it can help you put your dollars into the company that suits your needs, but it is boring. But before I get onto the interesting stuff, I have to finish up with the review for Brand #3, plus I'm going to do a review of each color group, since that was the main defining factor for my final brand choice.

First, let's talk about the things I liked about this brand. All of the dyes could be mixed up into dye solutions without problems. Both of the other brands had some difficulty in this area, which I mention here and here. This is extremely important to me since I don't want to work with dry powders. I plan to live well into my 100s (and, of course, keep my wit) and I don't want to breathe in dye powder every time I want to dye some fiber. Plus, it gets everywhere.

Top: Merino
Middle: Faux cashmere, Icicle nylon
Bottom: Silk noil
For every color, the dyes were completely exhausted for the animal/nylon fibers. There weren't any strange residues leftover, and the fibers felt the same after dyeing as they did before dyeing. Sometimes dyes can make the fibers feel harsh or tacky--not something you want to find out after dyeing a whole prime fleece.

Top: Cotton, Flax
Bottom: Tencel, Hemp
Not only did the colors exhaust from the dyebath, but the colors themselves were clearly saturated on the fiber. I was having trouble getting the black to look black on the merino fiber for the first two brands, but Brand #3 really pulled through. I could increase the DOS (depth of shade) when I want to dye merino black so I can get a deeper black, but at least it didn't turn out gray.

Top: Lincoln locks
Middle: Merino
Bottom: Icicle nylon, Silk noil, Faux cashmere
As with all of my other samples from Brand #1 and #2, I tried to keep a consistent variety of fibers among each color and each brand. For all of the Brand #3 dyes, I used merino, faux cashmere (nylon), icicle (shiny nylon), and silk noil. Those are the same fibers I used in Brand #1 and #2 samples as well. Aside from the yellow, which didn't take the dye well because I didn't wet the fiber completely before dyeing, all of the colors dyed the fibers very evenly. As a result, Brand #3 turns out to be an extremely well-rounded set of dyes.

Top: Cotton, Flax
Bottom: Tencel, Hemp
But there is just one other interesting thing about Brand #3 that I need to talk about. It can also dye plant fibers, which is kind of like computer magic to me. I'm sure to a chemist this might make sense, just like how a computer makes sense to a computer scientist, but it baffles me. Here's why: animal fibers and plant fibers require very different dyeing conditions in order to fix dye to the fiber and have it be color- and wash-fast.

Wool requires an acid and heat to bind the dye to the surface of the fiber permanently. Plant fibers require a base and no heat to bind the dye to the surface permanently. What happens when a base and an acid meet together? Well, you get a third grade science project better known as 'The Volcano.' So, you can't dye both types of fiber in their respective environments at the same time, which leads dye manufacturers to create acid dyes (wool dyes) and procion dyes (tie dyes, plants dyes). And yet, Brand #3 has managed to do something I didn't think chemistry and the laws of nature would allow.

Top: Faux cashmere, Merino
Bottom: Icicle nylon, Silk noil
In order to dye both kinds of fiber groups, you need to create a dye which can be jammed into the fiber's receptor sites when in the presence of a specific mordant. For wool, that mordant is some kind of acid like vinegar or citric acid. When the conditions are right, the presence of an acid and the vat is brought to the right temperature (about 180-200F), the fiber's receptor sites are introduced to the dye particles and the acid plays a major role in solidifying their marriage. The heat ensures that there is enough time to form the chemical bond (usually held at that temperature for 30-60 minutes), and afterwards, it becomes permanent. How permanent? Archaeologists have found 7,000 year old textiles which still have traces of dye on them. Whoa.

Top: Cotton, Flax
Bottom: Tencel, Hemp
So, if that's how you bond a dye to wool, what about cotton and flax? Well, they're the picky noble ladies of the fiber world. The suitor has to be just right and require a very long (by comparison) courting session before they'll accept a tentative marriage. Hmm, let's say that again but without the metaphors. Plant fibers also need to have their receptor sites altered, and in the presence of a base like alum, they're more likely to accept the dye permanently. But they need a bit more time, like 24 hours. And they prefer a cool or tepid environment. Plant fibers are notorious for being difficult to dye, and the well-calculated dyebaths they're put into still won't exhaust completely. Flax is the worst, though the others aren't much better.

Top: Faux cashmere, Merino
Bottom: Icicle nylon, Silk noil
After thinking this chemistry stuff through (again), I think I understand how dye Brand #3 works. Broadbase dyes like Rit will have several different dyes mixed together so it'll dye any fiber, including man-made ones--but the biggest problem here is that it'll never fully exhaust. Since Brand #3 will dye both animal and plant fibers specifically, they must have designed the dye to exhaust well in an acidic environment, but also work decently well in a basic environment too. This isn't a huge stretch to assume if you consider the process of dyeing with natural dyes. With a switch in pH environments, addition or removal of heat, and a change in the duration of the dyebath, you can use the same natural dyes for both fiber groups. I think Brand #3 achieved this versatility by keeping those principles in mind.

Top: Tencel, Cotton
Bottom: Hemp, Flax
At any rate, I think that's what is happening with Brand #3. I could be wrong, and I'd be thrilled to be corrected by someone who knows what's going on, but it has been a nice little brain buster for the last few weeks. Now, without further adieu, I'll give you my choice of brand: #3. I know, big surprise, especially after reading all of my rambling. I'll reveal the names of the brands when I talk about each color in the next post, since I have some things to say about that and I've clearly already written a book with this post. Look for that post in the near future. If you read this whole post, thumbs up to you! :D