Even the hobbyist dyer needs a safe and convenient work space. I have been repeatedly amazed at the ingenuity of my colleagues in creating work spaces. And very disturbed by how many work in their family’s kitchen. Dyeing and food preparation should NEVER take place in the same area. Find a well ventilated spot away from food prep areas, such as a utility or laundry room, garage, basement, covered porch or deck. Even a shade canopy outdoors works in fair weather.
Prolonged exposure to the dyes and chemicals used in dyeing poses a serious health hazard. Following a few safety rules regarding the work area, and personal equipment reduces the risks to a minimum. More details about the hazards and safety measures later, I promise!
Access to water is essential for preparing the dyes, preparing the fabric, washing out the dyed materials, and cleaning up equipment. My first studio did not have running water for several years. I used a garden hose, five gallon buckets, and a kiddie pool until my Dad plumbed in two laundry sinks for me. I though I was in heaven!
Laundry facilities close by are almost as essential as water access. In most dyeing techniques, especially tie dyeing, each garment is washed and dried at least twice. Once before tying, and at least once after dyeing. The family laundry machines can serve this purpose just fine, but a separate set of appliances is ideal.
Two moisture safe work surfaces, one for tying up, and one for dyeing are highly recommended. In a real pinch, the same table can serve double duty. Those old formica topped dining tables from the 1960’s are perfect for tying or dyeing on, and can be found by scouring thrift shops and yard sales. The light weight resin topped folding tables are great, because they are so easy to clean, and are available in a variety of sizes and shapes. A discarded door or sheet of ply wood on saw horses works fine, too. If the choice is a wooden surface, cover it with heavy plastic sheeting.
Now that we have a place to work, let’s round up some equipment. Here is a beginning list:
- five gallon bucket(s)
- deep, lidded wide-mouth containers that will hold at least 3 cups, such as retired peanut butter jars, yogurt containers, mayo jars
- plastic liquid measuring cups
- plastic dry measuring spoons
- rubber gloves
- submersible blender, also know as a cocktail blender (about $10)
- plastic funnel(s)
- racks, such as those used for cooling baked goods, or from a discarded refrigerator
- plastic trays for catching drips. mine are retired 9X13 food storage trays
- squeeze bottles, syringes, eye droppers, or pipettes for dispensing dye
- 1 quart crock pot
- white plastic ice cube tray
- plastic dish pans or 2 gallon tubs
Commonly used supplies:
- bindings, such as rubber bands, artificial sinew, dental floss, quilting thread
- colored chalk
- sodium carbonate (soda ash)
- procion fiber reactive dyes
- sodium alginate
- old newspapers
- plastic bags
- paper towels
- liquid laundry soap
- natural bristle paint brushes
- Soft Scrub bathroom cleanser
- synthetic bristle paint brushes
- soy wax
- respiratory mask
As you continue your dyeing career, more items will undoubtedly become essential to your work area. This beginning list will get you started in the basics of resist dyeing. A cabinet, shelf, or cupboard in your work area for storing equipment and supplies is necessary. Once an item is used for dyeing purposes, it should never be returned to it’s previous use. Blenders, measuring equipment, and all containers now belong to the dye shop, not the household.