Experiments With Dyeing

Experiments With Dyeing

Published by Amanda on 16th Jan 2015

Ureshii is all about colour – bright, saturated colour. We regularly stock a rainbow of fabrics, and we’re always wanting more. Our customers occasionally request a softer palette and more light neutrals, so we bring these in in small batches as we find them. It’s surprising, though – if we show a garment in a less saturated colour, it doesn’t sell well. Perhaps it just doesn’t seem as… Ureshii?

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In our search for new and better colour options, there are several staple jewel tones which consistently elude us. A reliable source of a good wine, cobalt, forest, emerald, or mulberry has been ridiculously hard to find. When we do find some, it’s usually a modal fabric, and stock sells out quickly. Our regular bamboo supplier has colours which come close, but they’re never quite as saturated or bright as we would like.

So, we’ve started experimenting with fibre reactive dyes. These work very well on both the linen and the bamboo/cotton, as well as the merino wool (although the process is slightly different). The results are bright, even, and colour fast.

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The results of our first two dye batches are shown above. I was going for a dark mulberry and got… well, something halfway between Dusk and Plum. Not a success, colour-wise, although it’s fun to have some linen jersey in a pretty and less transparent option. And the Pine green? Love it. I’ll try for a darker version next time, I think… something a little more like Forest.

The dye process is labour-intensive, especially if done in the kitchen sink with manual agitation. Several hours (and a painful crick in the neck) later, I knew that any further experiments would require a washing machine. Our front loader isn’t ideal, but we came across a vintage wringer washer on our local buy and sell site. It’s from the 50s, in excellent shape, and totally adorable.

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Here’s Freya in action. She has a lid, which I quickly learned to use. DO NOT turn on the agitator until the lid is firmly in place, Amanda! Ahem. The walls are only a little speckled now.

As you can see, I tried for cobalt next. We chose the brightest dark blue dye available, but it soon became apparent that the result was going to be Midnight. I stopped the process early to compensate and ended up with light Royal, something halfway between Periwinkle and Midnight.

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Some product photos to illustrate: Cobalt modal on the left, the light Royal linen in centre, and Midnight bamboo on the right. I now suspect that our bamboo supplier was aiming for cobalt as well, and their mill came up with Midnight. Our modal swatches simply don’t take this dye as well as the bamboo/cotton and linen, so it seems that’s a different process altogether. Hhhmmm. Well, onwards we go.

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Moving away from the bright jewel tone conundrum, we’re also wanting a nice medium gray. We regularly stock Granite (heathered, so somewhat casual), Slate (a touch blue), and Ash (a touch green). The dye we chose for this looked to be quite Slate-ish, so I compensated by adding a small amount of warm brown. The result? A lovely dark Charcoal. I think I’ll try for a lighter version next time, because I’m particular like that ;)

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We love linen jersey, and it requires minimal dye, so we’ll continue to experiment with new colour options for it. Next up: North Shore, a warm medium brown, and a rich burgundy/wine. And perhaps some lighter shades? Lagoon linen would be lovely…

Of course, dyeing fabric ourselves requires supplies and labour, so garments made from these fabrics will be priced about 25% higher. If we find that a custom colour sells well, then we’ll send swatches to our main supplier and try to cajole them into expanding their offerings accordingly. At the moment, they have a minimum 300m custom dye option, but that’s simply too much of one colour for us to stock. If the cajoling is successful (as it was with North Shore), then we’ll be able to offer these colours at the usual price point in the future.

Our supplier recently hinted that they’ll offer their own line of linen jersey soon, and they already have a line of woven linen that we’re eyeing up. Yes, wovens! But that’s another post…

xoxo Amanda