Cherry blossoms, Part 2: uh-oh

Let me preface this next post with:

While I’m not a lifelong dyer, I have been doing this long enough and intensely enough over the last few years that the mistakes that are about to play out were pretty dumb. As much I’d like to blame it on the late night, which is the only time I can really work on these things, this really was more a combination of impatience, inattention to detail, and yeah, alot of fatigue.

Okay, that said…onward to the branch disaster… (if you haven’t- read the post that leads up to this here: )

The scarf was batiked, and the background sprayed with pale to deep rosey pink dye. Since it is silk, I’m sticking with acid processing. Sounds scary but it just means the PH of the dye is acidic -I use citric acid crystals. There were 2 colors of concentrated dye stock, and a big bottle of acidic water for me to mix them with. When steamed, it will render the colors permanent.

For the branches, I grab bottle of black silk dye. I have used this kind of dye with the other backgrounds before, and it has worked fine, since it is essentially an acid dye. I dilute the black, do a few test strokes on some other silk, and I’m good to go.

Cherry Blossom scarf

I am not thrilled with how the dye is flowing (I painted the areas with an anti-diffusant and let dry) but I figure I can live with it. I can retouch later if need be. It’s very dark, dispute more dilution. I’m remembering that it’s difficult to get the effect of the brush painting (which is a very strict way of holding your brush) on a silk frame since it’s like painting on a loose trampoline. I leave it to dry, and start to clean up. I pick up the black dye bottle and have the “Oh Crap” moment. It wasn’t the bottle I thought it was. It was a completely different kind of reactive dye, one that needs a more more alkaline environment to work. And I had never used this before. Didn’t even remember buying it. I do a frantic web search for this to see if I can find any indication that this can be used as an acid dye. I find none. So, I do some fast thinking, figuring- either way, I’ve probably toasted this scarf- and it is now just a learning exercise. So I try to carefully paint over the black with a baking soda solution to adjust the PH. There is some bleeding, but not much. At this point this scarf is pretty much destined for the scarp bin though.

It dries, and finally gets steamed for 2 hours. Then I rinse. And rinse. Usually, if you’ve done everything right, the initial washout lets alot of unreacted dye go, then the water should get more clear. It wasn’t. It was really really pink. After 3 bucket changes, it sits in hot water, to get the wax out. When I pull it out, I see that the black has faded to gray, and only the first 2 applications of pink stayed.

Cherry Blossom scarf washout

I like how the wax resist held it’s line against the dye, but clearly there’s a major uh-oh. When I go back down to finish cleaning up, I flash on the night before, and remember not only did I screw up the black, but when I was mixing the last pink to spray the whole scarf- I mixed the dyestock with plain, unacidified water. So, except for the properly mixed paint I basically just stained the silk.

The cool thing is I’d read about chemical resisting in a few places- and you can clearly see where the acidic pink was “chased away” by alkaline black. Problem is they also pretty much cancelled each other out.

So I’m left with a 14×60 inch “scrap”. I did play around with some metallic fabric paints. And I also figured I could embellish and so on and make a few ATC’s from it, or use the good spots somehow. I don’t like to use fabric paint on scarves, but for art cards, pillows and so on, it works fine.


Even though I basically wasted a weekend painting and trying to fix this, at least I got to learn a few things along the way.

Feel free to comment on you favorite “mistake”.

4 thoughts on “Cherry blossoms, Part 2: uh-oh

  1. yep. I learned what kind of mistakes I can’t fix. I also learned I need to reorganize my dye cabinet. And label things better. :-)

  2. It’s in reality a nice and useful piece of info. I’m satisfied that you just shared this useful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

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