Monday, January 11, 2016

Dyeing by Weight Vs. Volume 1: Using 4 Different Half Teaspoon Measures


My name is Diane Franklin. I am a fiber artist and dyer from Boston, Massachusetts. This week, I will be doing 3 guest posts on the subject of dyeing by weight vs. dyeing by volume. Some of the material for these posts comes from my e-book, Dyeing Alchemy: A Primer About Procion MX Dyeing. At the end of this week, I’ll be raffling off a free copy of this book and its companion workbook that does all the dyeing math for you. To be eligible for the raffle, please leave a comment below any of this week's posts.

When I first learned to dye fabric more than 20 years ago, I, like most people at the time, was taught to dye by volume. All the dyeing books available talked about using spoonfuls of dye powder and gave approximate amounts of dye to use depending on how dark you wanted your fabric and how much fabric you were dyeing.

Many years later, I was exposed to dyeing by weight, either by weighing dye powder that would be directly dissolved into a dye bath, or by creating 5% dye concentrates (using 5 grams of dye powder to 100 ml of urea water). These liquid dye concentrates could be used in varying amounts by measuring them to the nearest milliliter using cylinders or syringes. I also learned to create solutions of salt stock and soda ash stock and to use those instead of salt and soda ash in powder form.

As I continued to dye fabric for the art pieces I was making, I found myself using a number of different dyeing techniques depending on the outcome I wanted. At that point I realized that there is no single right way to dye fabric. Instead, every dyer should have a variety of techniques in his or her arsenal and know when it makes sense to use each technique.

For example, when I want to dye fabric a single color, using a fairly large quantity of water, I find it is easier to work with dye powder rather than dye concentrates. But since I usually have large quantities of salt stock and soda ash stock already mixed in my studio, I tend to use these solutions even if I am working with my dye in powder form.

If, on the other hand, I want to dye many smaller pieces of fabric, using a variety of colors, I usually mix up a series of dye concentrates, in several primary colors, and use these to create the additional colors that I want. In this instance, everything I use is in the form of solutions.

If I want to "underpaint" my fabric before dyeing it (a technique I learned from Jan Myers- Newbury), I mix about 1 teaspoon of dye into a cup of water and use those solutions for underpainting. Here, I am not worried about the accuracy of my colors or concerned with wasting dye, since I'm using so little of it. In this instance, measuring by volume makes sense. Below is a picture of fabric that has been underpainted.

When I want to create accurate color samples of mixed colors for reference purposes, I always start with dye concentrates and carefully mix the colors, keeping careful notes of the amounts of dye concentrates used for each mixed color. This technique is especially helpful for creating value gradations or hue gradations between two primary or mixed colors. Having a notebook of color samples is a big timesaver when I want to dye a piece of fabric a specific color. I can use these samples as references and get the color I want to match.

In my book, Dyeing Alchemy, I talk about some of the reasons for dyeing by weight. The most important is that it is very economical to dye by weight since you use only the exact amount of dye powder you need for the weight of your fabric and your desired darkness (depth of shade). The second main reason for dyeing by weight is the ability to reproduce the same color at different times. If you always use the same weight of dyes in your color mix, you will get the same mixed color each time, except for differences due to dye lots.

To illustrate some of the issues related to dyeing by volume, in today’s post, I am using 4 different half-teaspoon measures.  I want to see if the amount of dye I place in each spoon weighs the same. Below is a picture of the different spoons I'm using for the experiment. I am working with the same color of dye in each spoon.


I have filled each spoon with dye, leveling the dye powder in the same way for each spoon. I've tried to level the spoons so that they are the same, but this is not easy to do accurately.



Next, I will weigh the dye in each measuring spoon by pouring the dye powder into a dye boat. Before doing so, I’ll place the dye boat on the scale and tare the scale to zero. Then, when I add the dye powder to each dye boat, I will get only the weight of the dye itself. 

(Notice that I am working in my studio sink which is below the level of my face. I have put my scale on a wet paper towel and covered it with plastic so that it will not get dye on it. When I'm finished with this dyeing session, I will throw away the paper towel, rinse the plastic and wash out the sink. No dye powder flies around the room, and there is little mess. Even so, I'm wearing gloves and a mask.)


Next I will put the dye that I measured into each spoon into the dye boat and weigh the dye to see if all measures weigh the same. I have used a separate dye boat for each measuring spoon in order to make sure that there is no leftover dye in the dye boat from the previous spoonful. Below is a picture showing the weight of one of my spoonfuls of dye.


I'll do the same thing for each measuring spoon.

The following table shows the weight of each of my half teaspoon measures:

Half Teaspoon Number
Weight of Dye
1
1.9 grams
2
1.9 grams
3
1.7 grams
4
2.2 grams

  So, what does this experiment show? The main thing is that different measuring spoons do not give the same weight of dye. Not only do the measuring spoons differ in the quantity, and therefore the weight of the dye they hold, but it is also difficult to get exactly the same volume of dye into each measure. 

This means that if you dye two pieces of fabric of the same size by measuring your dye into two different measuring spoons of the same size, the colors of your resulting fabric will be different. If the amounts of dye are close, the differences may not be noticeable, but if they are off by a lot, you may see these differences. Also, if the dye powder you use is more than you actually need for the weight of your fabric, you'll be wasting dye and will have to use more water to rinse out the excess dye.

In my next post, I will use the same measuring spoon to weigh different colors of dye powder to see if they weigh the same.


Don't forget to make a comment if you'd like to be entered into the drawing for a free copy of Dyeing Alchemy.


43 comments:

  1. Diane, I already have your book - it's a good one!
    I just want to thank you for this post. What a graphic and clear reminder of using weight vs volume depending on whether or not one wants reproducible results.

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  2. Thanks for sharing this. My past dyeing hasn't required a lot of precision, but I have been aware that I don't have a great deal of control over the color outcome. It never occurred to me that something as simple as a difference in spoon shapes could affect the outcome. A 2016 resolution: learn more control.

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  3. This post especially has been so informative....& only a variety of teaspoons has been discussed. I look forward to reading more. Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge

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  4. GREAT info, thank you! Brings to mind all uses for measuring spoons if you want reproducible results.

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  5. So far I've not needed precise or reproducible dyeing, but I'm always eager to have more tools of the trade in my toolbox. Looking forward to all your posts!

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  6. Thanks for sharing this. I dye a lot and I find this very useful. I look forward to your next posts.

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  7. Excellent information - I think I NEED your book, thanks for the offer.
    Diane

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  8. I'm a dyer with measuring spoons, although I always used the same, I hadn't realized I might waste dye because of it.
    I would love to read your book and learn more

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  9. I began dyeing large amounts of fabrics as 'wallpaper' a year ago. I needed the panels to either be exactly the same color or in the same color family. I quickly realized that weight was the way to go. But it took me 6 months to realize that less than 1 gram of dye was too small an amount from which to get a reliable test swatch. Reading your post, I see that there are many other things I have yet to realize. And I will soon be embarking on making panels for another room! Thank you for your post. And I would LOVE to learn more from your wisdom.

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  10. Thanks for such an informative post. The dyeing I do does not require that I be so accurate. I do appreciate the fact should I need this information, it is available.

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  11. Hi Diane. I bought your book recently, and have enjoyed getting into it. I have a question, though. ProChem lists a dry goods weight percentage to reproduce a color. (% owg or something like that.) I imagine it as a 'strength' measure. How does that fit into your calculations? I look forward to your additional posts.

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  12. Makes sense since good cooks cook also cook by weight! thanks

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  13. Very interesting. This same variation must apply to using small volumes of a concentrated dye solution also! Might explain some of the "irreproducibility" that I've seen in my dyeing. That looks like a terrific scale. Where did you find it?

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  14. I look forward to your next posts; I dye by measure, but would like to learn this technique for more consistent results! Would love to win the book too! : )

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  15. Thanks for the comments so far.

    I couldn't figure out how to post answers below specific comments, so I'm replying here.
    Craftalife asked about the meaning of OWG in PROChem's dye lists. OWG stands for "of weight of goods". For each color name in the dye charts there is also a percentage followed by OWG. Tangerine, for example, has color name followed by 4.0% OWG. This means that if you want to dye a piece of cloth with Tangerine dye and have it look like the color sample shown in the dye chart, you must dye it at a depth of shade of 4%.

    Chemistafloat asked about my dye scale. I believe that I bought it on Amazon. I do like it though I wish that it dyed to hundreds of a gram in addition to tenths of a gram. But it's accurate to tenths of a gram and can be calibrated.

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  16. This is going to be a great week of posts! I really fret about wasting dye and using lots of water to rinse out the excess. Plus, I love the 'scientific' side of dyeing and look forward to learning how to make up the concentrates and then go to town combining them.

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  17. Hi from Croatia! I'm so excited to have found your blog! I think I will start reading it from day 1.
    I am a silkpainter, fabric dyer and fiber artist for more than 20 years, but there is always so much to learn. I am looking forward to reading your book, even if I don't get the free copy.

    Tanja

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  18. I am finding that I use a lot of time washing to get the excess dye out and my colors look washed out. I am looking forward to learning more this week. Thank you
    Carol S

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  19. Very interesting how different 1/2 teaspoons give you different weight results. You would think they would all measure the same!

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  20. Interesting that the different measuring spoons are different volumes. Wonder what effect that has on cooking and what the standard should be.

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  21. Thanks for this information. What a great experiment. Your writing is so clear I truly appreciate it.

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  22. Dianne: Thank you for your measure vs. weigh article. I had heard that measuring cups and spoons vary greatly and really enjoyed your article.

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  23. This is a brilliant illustration about weight and volume. Here in the UK cooking is done by weight. Scales like you show are readily available for cooking.

    In fact, when I do use American recipes. I still weigh my fat. It is a lot easier to lay a piece of cling film over the scale and put pieces of butter on it til it is the right weight. Then you aren't digging the butter out of a cup. and how accurate can you be when you can't totally scrape all the butter out!

    Anyway, I am looking forward to the rest of the posts from you on this.
    Thanks!
    Sandy in the UK

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  24. Thanks for this information and looking forward to reading more about dyeing using weight as the measure. I have read about the "OWG" but did not know how to use it.
    I have a tiny digital scale and guess I will need a larger one to measure my fabric weights.
    I also enjoyed reading the comments and finding people saying the same things that I feel about dyeing, love the science of it all and also fret about water use.
    Look forward to the rest of your posts!

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  25. Very interesting to see how much variation there is even in the same volume measure! Would love a copy of your book.

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  26. Thanks Diane for the time and energy you have given with all this information. It is very useful.

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  27. Really good information. Thanks for the chance for the book.

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  28. Thoroughly enjoyed your article. Looking Forward to more.

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  29. Thoroughly enjoyed your article. Looking Forward to more.

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  30. I, too, started out using spoons and not knowing that weight was a better choice for my techniques. Then I met Carol Soderlund and my dye knowledge jumped by leaps and bounds. I now use spoons for older, unpredictable dyeing when I just want some color on the fabric. When I get serious about being able to match something, I grab the Soderlund Bible! Would love to see your take on the various techniques.

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  31. How interesting, thank you for all those tips on dyeing.

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  32. I would love to experiment with dyeing. I haven't done much, so your book and workbook would be REALLY helpful. Thanks for the opportunity to win them.

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  33. Hey Diane! Great info! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.

    Darcy Berg

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  34. This sounds like a wonderful book!

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  35. Hi Diane,

    I would love to own your e-book. I'm relatively new to dyeing. Haven't experimented much independently...time to start!

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  36. Enjoyed the lesson. I guess I have been dyeing fabric, cotton, for 8 years. The dyeing I do is almost all just for me so I have never particularly worried about reproducing exact copies of my colors. I have never bothered to do these experiments but the data is interesting. Thanks for the info.
    Sue

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  37. Indeed, a journey that never ends - how exciting! I think you ahve shown this admirably.

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  38. Thank you, you have confirmed something I had long suspected. Good post

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  39. Your experiment with the different measuring spoons is very impressive. I had no idea they were so inaccurate.

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  40. Very interesting information - the book looks like a must have for any dyer.

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  41. Great post Dianne! I think I need your book and your scale!

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  42. Very interesting. I always measure the weight and have bottles with dye ready to use. And then I love experimenting with all the colors. I am looking forward to your next post.

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  43. Thank you. Measuring by weight seems to be more accurate in many venues.

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