Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bleeding hearts

Recycled Silk and Banana Silk.....There are strong opinions out there regarding both of these fibers. Most either seem to hate them or love them. I've been told that the quality of these fibers especially the recycled sari silks vary greatly, I don't doubt that they do. That being said, I can only comment of the silks I have in my possession. I love them for their depth of color, not so much for their occasional inconsistency of twist. Not loving the veggie matter and garbage often found in the recycled silks either. The sheer weight of these fibers are also an issue that needs lots of attention. But today this post is going to deal with the color issues. Can something this vivid really be colorfast??? Working up swatches I have not had issues, but many friends have. I've heard a multitude of complaints from many who say that their needles/hooks and/or hands were stained by merely working with these fibers. Then there are the cries of those that had no problems while working with the fibers but when washing/blocking them the troubles began. I purchased my first hanks of both these fibers at Chain Link Oakland July 2005. That first night I had them, I swatched both. Then used and abused them in my hotel room sink. Hottest water possible and hotel shampoo. I pulled, stretched, wrung, and tortured them. Yes, I'm a lunatic, but I have an inner need to know the limits of the materials I plan or working with. I was dumbfounded that night at the amount of runoff dye. It truly was incredible, and yet with that much bleeding, there was no discernible lightening of the original color. The first thing that crossed my mind was that perhaps an all purpose dye had been used in each case, thus the protein appropriate dye "wasted" on the banana silk and the cellulose appropriate dye "wasted" on the sari silk. The second thing that was apparent to me was the softening of the fibers. After the swatches dried, both were so incredibly soft!!! They were 'like butter'. The sari silk had bloomed into a lush drapey river (duh). The banana silk has an ever so slight creamy soft haze that glistened in the light. My love affair with these fibers was transformed into a committed relationship. Soooo.....lets fastforward a few months and below are the results of my colorfast experiment on the recycled silk and the banana silk. The fibers I used the to "catch" the runoff dye can be seen here. 100% merino wool (Knitpicks), 100% cotton (Bernat kitchen cotton), 100% mercerized cotton (Reynolds Saucy) and a 89/11% cotton/rayon blend (Paton's Sabina a slubby boucle). To test the colorfastness I used 4 mini hanks, 3 yards in length, of each "mother" fiber and placed them in 8 small jars. I added approximately 1 cup of water to each jar, plus I added a tsp or so of vinegar to the jars that held the sari silk mini hanks. All of the small jars were then placed in water bath on the stove. I let them simmer approximately 45 mins. (Ooops didn't take terrific notes wish I would have). Anyway, they simmered about that long, I was watching them not the clock and when they looked as if the dye was no longer leaching. I removed the mother mini hanks and added the "daughter" hanks. Once again they simmered about 45 mins. Until the water in the jars looked clear (oops again no notetaking...sigh). After all the mini hanks, mothers and offspring, were cool enough I washed them with dishsoap and warm water. NONE of the mini hanks, mothers nor daughters, bled!!!! I couldn't have been more pleased with the results!! The banana silk lightened just a tad bit the sari silk showed no sign of color loss. Some of the lighter bits of the sari silk were dyed though. For example the areas that had bits of white were dyed to various shades of pink, which frankly gave the overall color of the hanks a more harmonious scheme. The daughter hanks from the banana silk were dyed much darker than the daughter hanks of the sari silk. Kind of figured that was going to be the case because the banana silk did seem to have more runoff than the sari silk did in the initial swatch abuse it had gotten in the hotel. Here is a picture of the results. Yep, I'm pretty pleased with this. I've got some rumblings in my brain regarding some designs for these fibers, especially now that I know I can make these fibers colorfast and get the added benefit of dying a coordinating fiber in the process!! Although I'm probably not going to bother with catching the runoff of the sari silk, the colors just aren't rich enough to justify the the banana silk on the other hand....yeah, I'm thinking it's a big YUP. I'll be dying with it's runoff when I have these rumblings sorted out. There are a lot of issues to consider when working with these fibers. I've got color undercontrol, as well as softness, (next post up will demonstrate how I dealt with that issue) and of course as mentioned before the sheer weight of a garment made with these fibers.