Friday, March 13, 2009

Red and Yellow make Orange. Right?

As a dyer I play with colour every day. On many days this is the only 'textile expression' that I get, and it is a very satisfying occupation. Dyeing our Serendipity range is fun and often unexpected results can lead to exciting further adventures. Our named range, however, is slightly different, these have to be dyed with precision and mistakes mean that the process has to start all over again. I use a number of dyes to produce the ranges. The cotton fibres are dyed using Fibre Reactive dyes, of which Procion is only one type. What would be the worst piece of news that a dyer could receive? How bad would it be if a particular dye was no longer made?

The safest way to mix a colour is to use a pure dye, that is a dye in the form in which it was manufactured. Many of the dyes on the market, named colours, are in fact mixes of one or more of these pure dyes and, although they produce beautiful colours in their own right, can be a bit of a minefield if you don't know what colours are actually in them. I buy my dyes from a number of sources, and some come in from abroad. Many of them are manufactured overseas, some of them in Japan, and unfortunately one of these was recently discontinued. One of my suppliers, trying to be helpful, attempted to recreate the colour by mixing various dyes, so when it arrived I knew that I had to 'tread carefully' and do a series of experiments.

The first thing I did was to mix a batch and dye a few sample threads using decreasing quantities of colour. I was expecting a deep orange-red which changed by degrees through coral to a peachy-pink, maybe heading towards peach. The results weren't what I expected, but the biggest surprise came when I went on to begin the next series of experiments.

This is a spot sample of the neat red dye. This sample is shown on paper, but it is similar to that on fabric
You can see that it is quite a strong orange-red, adding yellow should reinforce this combination. So what happened when I added the first yellow - a pure yellow, no other colours added.

The effect was amazing, and totally unexpected. The yellow was consumed in the first three stages leaving a light blue which continued through several more samples (I've only shown four of those here). This told me that the new red dye is a combination containing blue. The 'red' and yellow have combined in the early samples, pushing the small amount of blue further down the scale. More experiments are needed to see how it will work with other colours, but I can see that I will have to spend some considerable time experimenting in order to be able to create at least one of my named range colours. Time consuming it may be - but it will be worth it, and who knows what interesting combinations I may find in the process.


Yankeegirl said...

So interesting!! Its like watching watercolors mix and it!!

Sixsisters said...

That is really something Myfanway. It should be interesting to see what happens as you go along.

MagicMarkingsArt said...

What an awesome science/art experiment! Your local school teachers would drool over this information :)
Really great photos to show the process.

Rose said...

Wow, what a difference! How interesting to see this happen and learn more about dyes.
Great information!

SlogBite said...

Just stopping by to say hi.