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Steam Setting Silk Dyes

When you have finished applying the dye to the silk yardage or scarf - it's not permanent until you do something else. You have to "set" or"'fix" the color so you can wash or dry clean the piece without all the color washing out.

The method of "setting" or "fixing" the color depends on the chemistry of the dye you are using. Before purchasing any dye you should read the directions thoroughly to determine if the required proceedure fits your project and situation (time or space available, inclinations i.e. lifestyle). You will also learn how that particular dye or paint needs to be fixed (set, made permanent).

DYES AND METHODS OF FIXATION

  • The flowable paints (Dynaflow, Setasilk) - only ironing.
  • Jacquard Silk and Tinfix Design can be set using steam or a special liquid fixative. Jacquard Silk, and especially Tinfix Design, yield deeper richer colors when steamed as opposed to being fixed with the liquid fixative.
  • Dupont  and Vinyl Sulphone dyes require steaming to set the color. 

Steam fixation is essential for the last group of dyes and preferred for many others. They need to be steamed to achieve adequate color intensity and washability. The high temperature heat and pressure produced by steaming bonds dye and silk molecules together.

Best results are achieved using a professional home steamer. Dharma carries two types: the upright electric self-contained steamer and the stove top steamer. Smaller pieces can, however, be steamed successfully on the stove much like one steams vegetables, and we have directions for making a steamer out of a household pot here.

PREPARING THE FABRIC FOR STEAMING

When steaming it is important that the fabric does not touch itself at any point. If it does, the dye will transfer from one place to another and cause smearing. Also, water from the steaming process can never be allowed to come into contact with dyed silk. This will create spots and smears and designs you may not desire. To prevent these unwanted effects the fabric must be wrapped or rolled in paper and protected from itself and condensation from the steamer.

Rolling the fabric for the electric steamer or the stove top steamer.

The silk should be rolled between sheets of newsprint or similarly absorbent material - the paper or material you use must be porous enough to allow the steam to penetrate. If you use newspaper, the ink must be completely dry, at least six weeks old.

Roll a few layers of paper onto the pole you are using. Then begin rolling the fabric onto the poll between the layers of paper while keeping it smooth to prevent wrinkles from developing. The paper should extend at least two inches beyond the silk at each end. The length of the paper you use is not important as it can be overlapped. You can roll one piece of fabric or many scarves. Continue rolling until all the fabric is on the roll. Finish by wrapping an extra two layers of paper around the fabric and secure the roll with tape. Place the roll in the steamer and you are ready to start.

Steaming Time

The length of time required to set the dyes depends on the type of dyes and the amount of fabric on the roll. Generally, steam time will range from 30-45 minutes (for reactive dyes like Vinyl Sulphone) - after the water is boiling - to 2-3 hours for the French dyes and Jacquard Silk. The larger the roll of fabric, the more time necessary, as the steam must penetrate to the center of the roll. Check the directions of the dye you are using for the correct/ appropriate steaming time and then adjust for the amount of fabric being steamed- the more fabric, the longer the time.


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