Play Day - Microwave Dyeing

Had a play day with a group of friends yesterday, where we all took different materials to our local craft studio to experiment with. I had a set of Tintex colours for microwave dyeing which had been sitting in my cupboard for a number of years, so I thought I would try them out. I tried dyeing gauze, homespun cotton and even silk. It turned out to be very easy, quick and clean with wonderful results. In the end everyone had a go!

Here is what we did...

1 microwave
Tintex/Dylon/ RIT type dyes (these are called union dyes)
white cotton fabric and cotton gauze prewashed and still damp
small take away plastic containers with lids
gloves, protective plastic sheeting, mask (if in an unventilated room), kitchen roll, cup measure, plastic spoon etc.
  • to one cup of boiling water add 1 tsp salt, 1/16 to 1/8 tsp of dye powder (we found some colours were stronger than others)
  • mix well
  • pour into microwave container
  • add fabric
  • seal with lid
  • microwave on high for 3 minutes
  • rinse in cold water 
  • iron dry
  • done!
We found that if we had used a full container of fabric, all the dye would be taken up and very little would rinse out. If any dye was left in the container after microwaving, a second dyeing on another piece of fabric could be done, giving paler colours.
Also mixing 2 or more dye solutions and adding onto the fabric in different areas gave multicoloured results. We also over-dyed fabric to give secondary colours.
By this time I was happily folding, pleating and scrunching fabric with gay abandon... 

The technique was amazingly simple in contrast to using messy procion dyes. Even though the dye may not be as colourfast, we all felt that for contemporary quilts and mixed media work they were perfect.
Read below for an explanation of the differences between procion dyes and union dyes

Fiber Reactive Dyes, such as Procion MX by Jacquard have superior colorfastness. They are great for cellulose fibers such as cotton, linen, rayon, raime and viscose rayon . You need a few extra items for Fiber Reactive dyes however such as soda ash , salt and Synthrapol .  Soda Ash bonds the dye to the fiber, salt helps to fix the dye and Synthrapol is used as a pre-wash to remove any dirt, grease or sizing from your fiber and as a post dye rinse to remove excess dye. Fiber reactive dyes also work best at room or lukewarm temperatures.  If you’d like to use fiber reactive dyes on silk and wool, you will need to add white vinegar (acetic acid) and simmer the fabric in the dye bath in order to get the correct color.

Union Dyes, such as RIT, Dylon Multipurpose and Dylon Permanent are “Universal” dyes that allow you to dye a variety of fabrics.  If you are in the market for a quick, easy dye- union dyes are for you.  Even professional theater dyers use them because they’re so versatile. While union dyes will dye many fabrics,  the colors will be less brilliant, and less colorfast.  They only require salt to “fix” the dye.  Even though there are a few downsides to union dyes, their advantages make them popular: they come in both liquid and powder form, need very little special equipment, and come in a variety of colors.  For larger items, you can even use your washer as the dye bath container, which eliminates a lot of the mess associated with home dyeing.