Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Ah, yes, I can hear you asking what this is. Disgusting looking isn't it?  This is my pot of washed cotton fabrics that I am SCOURING in preparation for dyeing.

Ok, for some of you that's not a big deal. This week it's the first time I've ever HEARD of the word in relationship to dyeing. NOT ONE OF THE BOOKS I have mentions this particular process. Oh yeah, I know about washing the fabric in the washing machine with soda ash or mild soap powder with no additives and hot water. 
Well folks, the fabric in my canning kettle had been washed with hot water and Syntherpol. Just like all the rest of my fabrics that I have used in the past for dyeing.

One of my biggest complaints about the hand dyes I have done are that they lack brightness. They seem pale, washed out, blah. 

While throwing words at Google Search I finally came across an article written by Kimberly Baxter Packwood back in 2001. 
She mentions in our article that "scouring fabric will ensure excellent dye uptake every time."
She states that "scouring fabric removes the grease, dust, dirt and grime that fabrics encounter during the manufacturing process and transit."

Admittedly, the fabric I boiled in the pot was not new but for prewashed I was amazed and slightly disgusted with the color of the water after two hours of boiling.
I really didn't expect to see the water discolor like this.
I used filtered water.
The clothes were pre-washed with Arm & Hammer Washing Soda.
The pot was clean.


And, if that's what was boiled out of the fabric no wonder the dye doesn't have a place to settle so the results aren't that bright.

SCOURING is deep cleaning of fabric or fiber.  It will help assure even color and good penetration of the dye. EVEN IF IT IS BRAND NEW and PFD FABRIC it needs to be scoured.  

You can do this in your washing machine with HOT water and frankly if your machine has a two rinse cycle I would suggest it. Do not add any fabric softeners to the wash and if you dry the fabric in the dryer don't add any fabric softener sheets.

I used a little less than a 1/2 cup of Soda Ash with a full load of fabric. 

Every book I have on dyeing talks about using a washing machine and soda ash so you can check those for further information. 
I was interested in the fact that scouring, on the stove has the fabric in HOT water for two hours. That's a lot longer than the washing machine.

Oh, and while the fabric is simmering on the stove, you need to stir it up every 15 minutes or so. Making sure that the fabric is moving around getting scoured.
I used that time to reorganize some cabinets, make lunch, read a chapter in my book and start a pot of chili. Maybe YOU can leave the room but me? I'd forget I had the darn thing cooking on the stove.

I have the dried fabric in a bag labeled, SCOURED ON THE STOVE  because I also have a bag of SCOURED AGAIN in the WASHING MACHINE. I'm curious about how much brighter one will be against the other when dyed. 

I guess tomorrow I'll be boiling up some more fabric for this summer's dyeing. 

DOUBLE, double toil and trouble; 
             FIRE burn, and cauldron bubble.



  1. Hi, as we speak I am scouring some pink cotton crochet yarn to prepare for a turmeric overdye. My reference is Jim Liles, _The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing_. Though he says washing soda, I did not have any. I am using Synthrapol with a little sprinkle of lye to create a strongly alkaline environment. As you no doubt are aware, lye can eat through aliphatics like the crud in your oven and other waxy substances. I am using a Crock-pot because Liles says simmer for about 8 hours or even longer.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Maria. I have since resorted to just washing my cottons in hot water with Synthrapol, TWICE and rinsing TWICE.
      I did find that making a fresh batch of Soda Ash and soaking the fabric for 20 minutes or so before I dryed them on the line and then dyed them seemed to help keep the color much brighter. I also increased most of the dye recipes, except for teal, to 3 tablespoons.
      Good luck with your dyeing. I have found the book COLOR BY DESIGN by Ann Johnston to be my new "bible" for dyeing. Thanks again for stopping by. :)Bea