While surfing some of my favorite crafting blogs, I found a great new product – Inkodye. This amazing liquid is sun-reactive and will dye just about any surface – wood, paper, and, of course, fabric! The Inkodye website has some great tutorials and how-tos – I experimented with all three colors (red, orange, and blue). This is how it did it:
First, I used a large poster board as a surface – you have to work in a room with subdued lighting and as little natural light as possible, so that you don’t start the chemical reaction prematurely. I cut out smaller pieces of fabric to experiment with first – approx. 6″x8″. I laid the fabric squares on the poster board, then went outside to pick a variety of leaves, plants and flowers. I knew that I’d get the best prints from plants that would lie flat, so I tried to find flowers that would flatten out well, along with maple leaves, silk tree leaves, grasses, asters, daisies, and others.
I brought in the cuttings and was ready to begin. I poured out two tablespoons of the red Inkodye in a small mixing tray, and added two tablespoons of water (because the Inkodye is very expensive, and the website tutorial said that a 1:1 mix of Inkodye and water will produce the same color was undiluted Inkodye). Using a small roller with a foam brush that I found in the paint section at Home Depot, I rolled the liquid onto the fabric squares. I learned several things:
* It’s important to get a completely even coat all over the fabric, or the colors will be mottled once they are exposed to the sun (which can be a pretty effect, but not if you’re looking for solid color!)
* Even at 1:1 dilution, the color is very bright – I played around with 1:4 and even 1:6 dilution, and liked how each of the variations looked. I also tried mixing the red and orange, along with an equal amount of water, and was able to get different colors with each different combination.
* The solution isn’t like paint at all – it’s an almost clear liquid, which can make it challenging to see if it’s been evenly applied to the fabric, especially in subdued lighting. This wasn’t too much of a problem with small fabric squares, but when I tried larger pieces of fabric (like 25″ square), it was virtually impossible for me to get a smooth application.
* The Inkodye solution in the mixing tray evaporated very fast, so it was important to have several fabric squares out at once, and do them simultaneously – otherwise, you would lose any leftover solution.
After I applied the solution to the fabric, I experimented with arranging different flowers, leaves and grasses on the fabric squares. A few lessons learned:
* It’s important to put down a piece of glass or plexiglass over the fabric once the cuttings are arranged – I tried my first batch of dyeing without it, and it was difficult to get the flowers and leaves flat enough to get really good silhouettes. I took a large piece of glass out of an unused picture frame (about 20″ x 24″) and used that.
* Don’t remove the cuttings until you take your poster board of fabric squares out of the sunlight! I made that mistake the first time, and saw that the silhouette of the cuttings starts to react to the sunlight almost immediately. This can be pretty if you want your silhouettes to have a light color, but of course it can be tricky to make sure that they don’t fill in with color altogether.
After you press the glass pane down on the fabric squares, carry them out to the sunlight – I used a picnic table on our back deck. The color starts to react almost immediately – very cool to watch! It takes 12-15 minutes for the process to be complete. After that, take the poster board back inside, take off the glass and the cuttings, and immediately put the fabric squares into the washing machine set on “hot.” This is an important step to stop the color reaction and keep the fabric from continuing to change color, even after you’ve removed the cuttings. The directions say to run the fabrics through a hot cycle in the washing machine twice – probably a good idea.
I then threw all the fabrics in the dryer, let them run until completely dry, and then ironed them to get them ready for use in my next project. After experimenting with the red and orange, I tried different dilutions with the blue – a pretty color, but more difficult to get a lighter color dilution than with the red/orange. Also, very difficult to get a consistent color over any larger pieces of fabric.
Right now, Inkodye only comes in red, orange, and blue – maybe other colors will be coming out eventually? It’s very expensive, but you can buy it in small containers and you can make it last a long time by diluting it. I’d love to find a way to soak the fabric in the solution, instead of rolling it on – maybe that would give it a more consistent color on larger pieces? – but I don’t know how that would work, and it would take so much solution, it would probably be cost-prohibitive. This wonderful product has a lot of potential and almost limitless possibilities, but it’s a good idea to just play around with it first, because it takes some time to get the hang of it and figure out which cuttings, and which techniques, work best.