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February 22, 2010 / Jenny Ann Fraser

Dyeing Fabric

This past Saturday, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a fabric dyeing workshop that was hosted by my very talented friend Kelly Ruth.

Kelly has had many years of experience as a fabric dyer and textile artist, and is an accomplished painter. She also has her own line of hand-dyed and silk-screened bamboo clothing which she sells in her shop on ETSY, as well as some retail outlets across Canada.

I’ve known Kelly for somewhere in the neighborhood of sixteen years and we’ve been working together both directly and indirectly for all of those years. We’ve also had a lot of fun along the way.

I attended this workshop mainly to learn more about fibre-reactive dyes which I am not familiar with, but considering as an addition to the type of dyeing I do at my job as Head of Wardrobe at Prairie Theatre Exchange.  I was thrilled to come out of this workshop having learned so much more.

Mostly I learned that I want to play!  I want to play with colour, and silks, and quilting, and…

I’ll get to it. Some time after my business is up and running.  It could be a while, but I can embrace this as an opportunity to learn to be more patient.  I just can’t do everything at once, and that really is a good thing.

In the meantime though, I still have a job, and I can see that my new understanding of fibre-reactive dyes might make a few designers happy in the future. Or not.  I just can’t help but to be excited every time I learn something new.

Thanks Kelly!



Leave a Comment
  1. Ed Medges / Mar 10 2010 3:12 pm

    Is Polyester hard to dye or print? Suppose I wanted to print a picture on the surface of a polyester fabric, would that be hard?

    • jennyannfraser / Mar 10 2010 3:28 pm

      Well, you can silk-screen on polyester, but it is very difficult, expensive and totally toxic to dye.
      We used 3 different types of dye in the workshop, but they’re all made for natural fabrics. Polyester goes through a different process and is usually dyed in manufacturing.

  2. Jae Blakney / Aug 18 2010 3:14 pm

    I’m curious about how/why polyester is “totally toxic” to dye. I dyed polyester last winter, with one of those dye packets you can buy. It seemed to work okay. Is the garment toxic now? Or only the water I poured down the drain after?

    • Jae Blakney / Aug 18 2010 3:17 pm

      Jenny, I have no idea why there’s a mad-face beside my comment. I must have missed a setting I was supposed to change. Sorry! I did enjoy the post.

      • jennyannfraser / Aug 18 2010 3:25 pm

        LOL. WordPress seems to assign random avatars if you don’t have a profile pic. Some of them are strange, but I know they are random.

    • jennyannfraser / Aug 18 2010 3:24 pm

      Hi Jae,
      Thanks for the question.
      What you probably dyed was not polyester, but a poly-blend or, if you were able to get an intense colour, nylon which can be mistaken for polyester but dyes very well.
      No, the item you dyed is not toxic, but the dyes are.
      The type of dyes that would dye poly are not available commercially as they are very toxic to both the environment and yourself in their raw form. Once they are fixed into the fabric, the fabric itself is safe.
      The most eco-friendly dyes, are the fiber-reactive dyes which will only work on natural fibres. They are cold water dyes which have quite a long process and still have some toxicity, so they are far from totally safe.
      I know that in Canada, you can only purchase these through special order. They are not sold at retail outlets, but it might be different in the US.

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