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Honour the Child

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BTRT Patterns (on Etsy)

Monday, 17 October 2011
Welcome to part four of this series of informational posts to help parents and family shop for playsilks for the little ones in their lives As the holiday season approaches and you look for long lasting, beautiful, natural playthings, these posts can help you choose quality silks.

playsilk, silk, play, waldorf, dyeing, how to, choosing, help, shopping, guide
You will find the past posts here:
Part One :: Why Playsilks?/ Is it Silk?
Part Two :: Quality
Part Three :: Size Matters

Silk is gorgeous.
It takes dye beautifully.
I am still enamoured of the process after years of dyeing thousands of pieces... I am still excited every time I pull out the dye pots.

Dyeing is an art and a science and the dyes are to be handled with care.
A few words about dyes...

Dyer’s generally use food dyes or acid dyes or a combination of both when working with silk.
Silk, like wool, is a 'protein' or animal fiber.

Procion dye will work on silk, but is intended for plant fibers and often lacks predictability and vibrancy, acting more as a wash or stain on the fabric than a true dye which bonds to the fabric itself in a chemcial reaction ('fiber reactive dyes').
All three are safe in their dyed form (on the cloth).

The least permanent is the food dye as it is not formulated for washing or for light (it is made to be eaten, think of that the next time you drink red Kool Aid... that it permanently bonds to animal fiber... eek!), and some colours do run (but are safe and baby-mouth friendly).  That is not to say that it doesn't create lovely silks ~ they just require a little more tender care to avoid fading and colour loss.

Acid dyes are created to be permanent, light and wash fast.
They are fiber reactive and are the industry standard for true, long lasting silk colours.
I am often asked about natural dyes~ if we make natural toys, why not use natural dyes? 

Firstly, most of the natural 'dyes' are not dyes~ you can soak silk in beetroot and get a lovely natural, soft colour that will set reasonably well with an acid (ie vinegar) but the piece has not undergone a true dye reaction, it is only stained
Unless a mordant is used (and in the case of many natural pigments these mordants contain heavy metals and are more toxic during the dye process than the non-naturally derived dyes), the fabric is simply stained with the colour of the dyeing agent (ie grass, beets etc.). It is also prone to rapid fading as oils from hands, light and washing work at removing the ‘stain’.

Each dyeing method has its merits and unique results, however when it comes to the play and wear of children's toys, durability, light and color fastness are priorities.

As you are shopping, look for information about how the silks have been dyed.
Also consider the dyer's experience.
How long have they been dyeing? 
Do they have a body of work that shows consistent and lovely pieces? 

Silk is relatively easy to dye on your own~ silk + kool aid + vinegar.
And it is FUN to do.

However, if you are going to pay for professionally dyed silk, ensure that it is professionally dyed by an experienced and responsible dyer.

Whether you like muted natural tones or brights, look for consistently dyed silk and a track record of beautiful pieces.
Check the gallery (seller doesn’t have one? Check the past items that the vendor has sold).
Pictures may show samples (many dyer’s dye to order) and not the specific silk you will receive~ is the quality of the dye work consistent and to your tastes?
Even solid pieces can carry a lot of character and beauty in the way the dye is applied.

Monitors vary, and tones may vary between pictures and the real thing~ but in the end you should find the
finished piece exceeds your expectations from the photos because the movement of the colour across the piece in your hands will be amazing!

Hopefully this information from the 'inside' will help you to choose beautiful silk to last for years and years of play! ♥♥

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