Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Fabrics, Old Techniques

In exploring new fabrics to use in my dyeing, I've been seeking out organic and environmentally friendly fabrics. Conventionally-raised cottons are grown with a liberal application of pesticides and herbicides. Additional chemicals are used in preparing the cotton for market. Most cottons are produced in countries where there is no regulation of chemicals used. Chemicals long banned in the U.S. and the E.U. are used in India and China to maximize crops, with no thought to their environmental or human impact. Workers are routinely exposed to toxic chemicals, either during the growing process or during the production phase. In addition, serious questions remain as to the amount of residual chemicals remaining in the fabric after processing to which end consumers are exposed.

I am seeking organic fabrics raised without pesticides and minimally processed. To that end, I'm purchasing organic cottons, hemps and silks to integrate into my work. 

Whenever I buy new fabric, I run many experiments with different methods of dyeing before committing to buying or dyeing large quantities of yardage. Fiber reactive dye does not react with all fabrics equally, even with all cellulose fabrics equally. Testing is critical. Different techniques may work better on different fabrics, dependent on threadcount and weave.

This cotton gauze fabric is certified organic and is made in the U.S.A. -- a rarity given that more than 90% of cotton processing has moved overseas!

Here's a picture of it before dyeing:

This fabric has a wonderful weave.  Almost like a cheesecloth,  but with more texture. It is a natural color and has a wonderful crinkled surface that gets more crinkled after washing. 

I washed the fabric in warm water on gentle cycle in my machine. This fabric, because of its loose weave, frays easily.

I wrapped it around and pole and bound it tightly before dyeing it in a black dyebath. This is a shibori technique (arashi) that I frequently use with high threadcount cotton, and I was curious to see how it would work with a much looser weave.

The color did not come out as dark as I expected, but I suspect I didn't add enough salt to the dyebath. Salt is critical to achieving darker values of dye, especially black. I used about 1500 grams of salt, but next time will need to use more to achieve a true black. 

But having said that, I love the resulting hue! It is a a gorgeous dark charcoal grey, highlighted with flashes of white where the binding thread formed a resist between the cotton fibers and the fiber reactive dye.

Most importantly, this fabric is organic and manufactured here in America. That makes me feel even better about this fabric choice.

Available for purchase here. Thanks for reading!


jude said...

this is gorgeous...

JacksonFabricArts said...

thanks Jude, I'm happy with the way this turned out! I'm going to try some stitched shibori with this gauze fabric next. Also on the burner are some experiments with hemp and hemp/silk blends I'm expecting to arrive this week.

Grapeshot/Odette said...

Cool blog. I am also a fan of Downton Abbey.

JacksonFabricArts said...

Thanks for the kind words....yes, can't wait until the next season is released!