advice on achieving a smooth gradient
  • Hello,

    I am rather new to dyeing. I am working with cotton yardage that will eventally be the background for a piece of art quilting deplicting an underwater scene. I am trying to achieve a smooth color gradient from a light turquoise blue through a medium blue and ending with a dark colbalt blue. I want to avoid obvious lines marking the transition from one shade to the next. The piece of fabric I am dyeing is a triangle 14 feet long and 6 feet high.

    I have attempted this once before with a much smaller piece of fabric and had moderate success. I used immersion dyeing technique and Procion MX dye. The dye and color was fabulous but I had some trouble making the color transition smooth. I had at lest one noticable line marking the end of a lighter color and the beginning of a darker color. Is there a technique that will help me smooth out these transitions? I am much apreciative of any suggestions. Thank you.
  • As in watercolor painting, when you want a smooth gradation of color, always work wet-on-wet, that is, with premoistened fabric.

    After mixing the colors you want in your gradation, use additional bottles to make intermediate mixtures of those colors. Start with your bottles of turquoise, royal blue, and cobalt blue. Take some of the dye solution from each of these bottles to make a half turquoise/half medium blue mixture in one bottle, and a half medium blue/half cobalt blue mixture in another. Depending on the size of your project and how much of a perfectionist you're being, consider also mixing a bottle in between each of the five different colors you now have.

    The smoothest color transitions are made by after-fixing. Instead of applying soda ash before the dye, as a presoak, start with only water to moisten the fabric, and add the soda ash after the dye. This allows the dye to spread on the fabric before reacting with it. When the soda ash is already in the fabric when you apply the dye, some colors, such as fuchsia, will react immediately with the fiber, and not spread out at all, while others, including turquoise, react slowly enough that they will spread out before reacting. I'm not sure where blue MX-R (medium blue) and blue MX-2G (cobalt) fall on the scale of reactivity, but they are somewhere in between the reactivity of turquoise and the reactivity of fuchsia; the reactivity of a color has nothing to do with its hue. Letting the dye spread, before allowing it to react with the fabric, encourages smoothness in your gradations.

    When after-fixing, instead of pre-soaking with soda ash, in order to prevent dye on the fabric from dissolving back out into the soda ash solution—this is probably not a problem when your colors are closely related, as in this case—you can either add a lot of salt to your soda ash mixture, or you can substitute sodium silicate liquid for the soda ash. Sodium silicate is sold by ProChem as PRO Fix LHF and by Dharma Trading Company as AfterFix.

    Paula
  • Paula,

    Thank you very much for taking the time to share your knowledge with me.

    I agree with you that mixing intermediary colors is a good idea. I had thought to try that. I will deffinately take your advice on after-fixing.

    You start out your email to me mentioning watercolor painting. Is this the method that you would recommend? Watercolor painting instead of immersion dyeing? I will have to do some research and find instructions on watercolor painting but I am assuming that this is a method that allows liquid dye to be painted or poured onto the fabric while the fabric is layed out, open on a table top. Very different than dipping or submerging the fabric is a vat of dye. As a new dyer, I sometimes get confused by what seems like conflicting instructions. Immersion dyeing requires fabric to be soaked for several minuetts in dye. When painting,(with liquid dye, not thickened) the fabric is not "soaking". Does leaving the fabric lying on a table with dye painted or squirted onto it have the same effect as soaking it in dye? If the fibers are saturated its the same thing right?

    I will do more research and try to learn more about the medium of dye. Thanks again for your help.

    -Kristi