Keeping the white White

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Moon Tie Dye

A big challenge for most tie dyers is leaving no white, or undyed, areas.  An even bigger challenge is deliberately leaving an area white as part of the design, or in preparation of using the white area as a canvas for an additional design element. Several of my most popular shirts, such as my Moon and Snow Folks, have large white areas.  Frequently, I combine tie dye with ‘painting’ with fiber reactive dyes.  For the dye colors to yield true, a clean, white area is needed in which to paint.

Here is how the white area is kept white in my studio.

  • Pre soak the washed and dried garment in a solution of 1.25 cups of sodium carbonate and 1 gallon of water.
  • Wring, or spin in washer, until just damp.
  • Pleat in desired pattern.
  • Bind off the portion of the design intended to remain white with rubber bands, so tightly the bands will have to be cut off to remove.  I recommend rubber bands for this technique, rather than artificial sinew.  Why?  With rubber bands a great deal of resistance can be created due to the tension of stretched elastic.  
  • Using a zip lock- style plastic sandwich bag, cover the area.
  •  Zip the bag as far shut as possible.
  •  Wrap another rubber band tightly around the bag.
  • Place the tied item on a slanted drip rack, elevating the side of the rack nearest to the area to remain white.
  • Dye the  area nearest to the bagged portion by applying the dye close to the second band, allowing the dye to wick to the first band.
  • Batch for 12 -24 hours.

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  • Remove the bag from the protected region first, rinsing in cool water.
  • Rinse the entire item in cool water.
  • Unband under running cool water.  This first rinse should be thorough enough to remove all the sodium carbonate solution.
  • Soak the item(s) in hot soapy water for at least 5 minutes, but not longer than 15 minutes, with white areas sticking out of the soapy water.

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  • Rinse in cool water until waste water runs nearly clear.  At this point some back coloring might be evident.  If so, continue rinsing until the white is white again.

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  • Machine wash and line or tumble dry.

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Now the white area can be left white, or is available for further embellishment.

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Filed under How to, Using Fiber Reactive Dyes

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