Thursday, March 1, 2012

Fun with transfer dyes, parts 3 and...1?

All that leaf-printing and ironing didn't create the glorious piece I had in my mind's eye. I can't even blame the photograph; this is one piece of fabric that looks even worse in real life than in the picture! Vivian told me to stop, oh, 10 to 15 leaf-prints ago, and Vivian was right.

Fortunately for morale, I've got another piece of polyester satin that was being used to test various techniques, and that came out great, and I've quilted and embroidered it to make a little wall piece. It should be a good size for putting over one of the places that really needs to be repainted. But first I've got to trim and bind it, and meanwhile it's been telling me that it wants gold thread embellishment. And pearls. For a small piece, it's extremely demanding.

Meanwhile, it has been pointed out to me that I haven't exactly posted Transfer Dyes Part 1, just some vague mention of using transfer paints on polyester lace. So let's backtrack:

Those little bottles of transfer paints ran out really fast, so I ordered a complete set of transfer dyes in powdered form from Prochem ( [The insert link thingie is behaving oddly today]. It may not be trivially obvious where they are; go down to "Dyes for Polyester, Nylon, &c", click on that, and then on "Pro Transperse Transfer Printing Dyes." I bought 2 oz. of each; if I'd realized how much painting on paper that will do, I'd probably have started out with the 1/2 oz. packages.

You'll need something to thicken the mixed dyes if you want to do anything like stamping or screen printing or roller printing or monoprinting or... well, anything but watercolor effects. ProChem wants to sell you 3/4 lb of "Pro Thick F". I decided from the description that it was the same as Dharma's low viscosity sodium alginate for silk, which I have on hand, so I didn't invest in their recommended thickener (more about this below).

They send directions for how to use the dyes, or you can download them from their website. They can be something of a PITA to mix up,as you're supposed to mix each color of dye into a half cup of boiling water, wait for that to cool down, then mix in the thickener. Mixing all 9 colors can take forever if you're using just one Pyrex mixing cup. I went over to the local thrift shop and bought 9 coffee mugs for $2.00. Problem solved.

Now, about the thickener: if you're using Dharma's sodium alginate for silk and want a thick mixture for screening, do not - DO NOT - use the recommended measurements from Pro Chem. They tell you to mix seven and a half tablespoons of thickener into one cup of warm water. Since I wanted a medium-thick mixture for both screening and hand painting, I decided to mix it half-strength, drizzling 7 and 1/2 tablespoons of sodium alginate into two cups of water.

I don't actually know how much I put in there. Somewhere in the stirring process, well before I'd added all 7 1/2 tbsp., the "thickener" turned into a ROCK. This was a mix you could bounce off the walls. It was a mix you could break windows with. Maybe these proportions work with ProChem Thick F, but you don't ever want to do it with straight sodium alginate.

So I poured in extra water, and let it sit for a while, and stirred, and poured in extra water, etc., etc., and I don't know what the proportions were by the time I had something remotely liquidish. And that had to be diluted by half again when I actually mixed the dyes. I've still got a quart of semi-solid thickener sitting in the fridge which I will thin out next time I mix dyes.

I mixed up half the quantity of dye recommended, so I had just 1/2 cup of (still rather thick) dye for each color.

That was enough for Vivian and me to spend an entire day painting paper; then I spent weeks making those leaf transfer prints; then I just painted some solid sheets to use up the dyes; then I gave up trying to use up the dyes. There are still nine jars of liquid transfer dye in the workroom. Which, according to the instruction sheet, are probably too old to use now, but I'm going to test that before I throw it out.


  1. I've kept my transfer dyes (in bottles) for months..and the painted papers last forever...well, a long time for me so far! thanks for the process post!

    1. That's good to know! Now all I need to do is think of something to do with the remaining dyes... or maybe not think so much, since the planned piece came out so much worse than the casual test piece.