"To Dye For"

Tuesday 28 July 2015

So, what’s with the “… to dye for” labelling on Bambü Drü’s bamboo based clothing?

For those of you who haven’t yet visited our Bambü Drü Textiles webpage, our bamboo based garments and fabric ranges are manufactured with the intention of being dyed.  With the exception of the few garments that we receive already coloured from Bambü Drü all of the garments and fabrics we stock are PFD (Prepared for Dyeing) so contain no dressings or bleaches and garments are sewn with dyeable (cotton) thread.

For those of you that prefer the convenience of having your clothes ready-coloured we offer many of our garments in a selection of colours transformed for us by a commercial dyer in Albany, but a large proportion of the garments, and all the fabric that we sell leaves us in the pure and natural golden cream tone of undyed bamboo viscose.  While many of these products will remain this colour we do receive a steady stream of enquiries from our customers about how best to personalise the colour of their purchases.  This blog is for those of you, and has been written with the added expertise of Shirley Goodwin who previously operated Tillia Dyes.

Firstly then, all of Bambü Drü’s products are made from bamboo, cotton and/or hemp which are all plant based ‘cellulose’ fibres.  These fibres are dyed using ‘fibre reactive’ dyes such as Procion. The only exception is that a few of our fabrics and garments contain 5 -10% lycra/spandex (for stretch) or 2% polyester (for stability).  In both cases the reactive dyes won’t work on these synthetic fibres but the relatively low percentage of these fibres make this unlikely to be an issue except when dark colours are desired.

Reactive dyes are also well suited to bamboo textiles in that they don’t require high temperatures (e.g. boiling) in order to ‘fix’ the colours. This sits well with Bambü Drü’s maximum recommended temperature of 60°C so avoiding potential fabric damage and excessive shrinkage.  It also means that dyeing single ‘solid shade’ colours can be done in your home washing machine.

Another benefit of reactive dyes is that they are low toxicity so safe to put down the drain once they have served their purpose.  On the subject of toxicity we occasionally are asked about the use of ‘natural’ vegetable derived dyes. Usually the intention is to use natural substances such as coffee, beetroot, onion or barberry in order to avoid self or environmental harm.  The problem to be aware of however is that most ‘natural’ dyes will prove problematic in terms of colour longevity and require mordants to ‘fix’ the colour in the fabric. Be mindful that these mordants usually contain heavy metals so more than undo the benefits of the intended process.

Having perfected the process of single colour dyeing your Bambü Drü T-shirt, Yoga Pants or fabric will provide you with the only garment of its kind in your town, or perhaps in New Zealand, but how about going totally original? Dyeing can be so much more than turning your T-shirt primrose, or cerise, or chocolate.  Far more creative effects can be gained by multi-colouring using methods such as mottling, crackling or the 60’s classic, tie-dyeing.  If you want to take that next step those are Shirley Goodwins’s skills. Shirley can be contacted at Black Forest Yarns for some quality advice!


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