advice on achieving a smooth gradient
  • Hello,

    I have already posted this question before but I found that I posted it in the wrong section. I thought I would try again and see if I got any more advice.

    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.
  • Hi Ishmoo,

    I think Paula's suggestions were great. I'm quoting her for the benefit of others reading this post. The instructions refer to using Procion MX dyes.

    pburch said:
    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

    Have you given her method a try? If you did, were you happy with your results?
  • Ishimoo said:
    Hello,

    I have already posted this question before but I found that I posted it in the wrong section. I thought I would try again and see if I got any more advice.

    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.



    Hi -
    I'm new too, but know a little about painting. Although you could probably do this with immersion, it would be a real challenge to control that huge,heavy, sopping wet length of fabric and get an even gradation. I don't do immersion (not enough room in the kitchen!) - so this is how I'd recommend direct application.

    I think your biggest challenge will be finding a workspace big enough to spread out the fabric. Clear a room and cover the floor with plastic, I guess; but be sure the fabric isn't so wet that the dye puddles. If you can keep it wet enough, you could take it outside and hang it from a clothesline. Covering your driveway with plastic would give you a slope to work on. Ideally, you should build a big ole' frame and stretch the fabric on it - but that may not be feasible.

    The next challenge is going to be working fast enough to keep a wet edge on this HUGE piece of fabric. You're going to have to keep the fabric wet across its entire width as you're applying the dyes, or you'll ave a line where it dried, when the new color was applied - it's like trying to paint the wall of a room in watercolor! I'd recommend using chemical water with urea to keep things damp longer, using large brushes/squirt bottles, and being ready to MOVE-MOVE-MOVE once you get started. Also some clear water in a spray bottle, and cotton balls/paper towels to blot up errors as you go. Try Paula Burch's website - she has so much advice it's probably covered there somewhere. And the previous poster is right; don't set the dye till after you've applied it and adjusted the color, if needed. Maybe one of the slower acting dyes, instead of Procion MX?

    If you do get some irregularity, I think it would actually be more interesting than a smooth gradation. Water is transparent, after all; maybe you could incorporate "glitches" into the design as reflections or shadows from above. Love to see a photo when you're done - good luck! Sorry that I've rambled on so long - it's 4 AM here, and I'm starting to drift!

    L
  • Hi,
    Have you tried spraying the dye onto the fabric? Pre-soak with soda ash and then while the fabric is damp spray the dye using either large spray bottles or an air gun. The nice thing about spraying dye is you can lay down very fine layers on each pass and build up some really nice gradations.
    Celia
  • Okay, so I'd referred you to Paula Burch's website for more help; then I noticed the poster before me WAS Paula Burch! - or rather, Noelle quoting her.

    Hey, like I said - it was 4 AM!