Fiber Reactive Dyes (Jacquard Procion MX or Dharma Trading Co.) are amazing to use – one reason is they do not have to be heat-set when used on cotton. (I would imagine all cellulose based fabrics, but so far I have only printed onto cotton.) I apply the dye by hand with brushes and sponges – actually anything you would use to put a paint finish on a wall. The backgrounds become less uniform than vat dying, but I think they are more interesting and take on more texture often looking aged or worn. This is perfect for making commentary on time and history as in Homage to Seamstresses. First I soak the fabric in a soda ash bath and let it sit for awhile making sure the fibers are well saturated. Here I mixed coral pink with a small amount of alginate (just enough to get the dye to stay on the applicator) and a combination of a wide brush used for paintin faux linen textures and a fuzzy paint mit. (Next time I may add calsolene oil to aid dye spreading for the base color.) The fabric was canvas that had a very soft surface on one side. The effect is worn cotton velvet.
Then the pattern is silk screened using a mixture of jetblack dye, sodium alginate, and rice paste. Here I added soda ash to the mixture as I did not trust the soda in the fabric was still affective. I am not sure this is necessary and new problems arise as a result. For some reason, the soda ash causes the rice paste to congeal and it becomes very gelatonous and difficult to apply. For some applications this may be fun as the pattern can become crackled. If the dye is not worked through the screen well enough, it will not pass through onto the fabric. In addition, the rice paste causes the dye to stay on the surface so the fabric has to be damp enough to attract the moisture of the dye into the fibers. Too much moisture causes bleeding. I suggest experimenting with an open mind onto scrap fabric in small quanities – my first attempts at home did not work out so well – I kept trying and now this!!
Now to the COLD CURE Process – After each color application, I roll it in plastic overnight, for at least 12 hours. For the background colors I usually roll the fabric pretty much immediately as the dye will bleed and feather for more uniformity. I then unroll the fabric and let it sit to dry to damp for screen printing. Again test on small pieces to get a feel for what works for you. When you print the next layer, you need the pattern to sustain and not bleed and feather into itself like an old tattoo. Again -I roll the fabric into plastic to let it cure overnight. Please be careful with the screen printed pattern. You will have to wait until the dye is touchable before you roll it. When you can touch the printed dye and your finger comes away clean, you can safely and carefully lay a piece of plastic over the length of fabric and roll it up. I try to roll it crease free just to make sure the dye does not smudge.
Next, let the fabric dry thoroughly – I prefer a clothes line or as you can see my apparatus works well too –
After drying, I rinse and wash. Sometimes, I rinse and wash twice as the rice paste takes a little more to remove and you may see a little bleeding. This will wash out the second time, especially if you use synthrapol or Dharma’s detergent subsitute.