Monday, 1 February 2016

No Smurfs were harmed in the making of this fabric...I promise!

It's taken me a while to get round to posting about this, but last week I had some great fun dyeing my corsetry satin from white to blue. I wanted something a little more fancy for my 1880s corset and, after looking at various originals for inspiration, I settled on mid blue.

Rather than buy a blue satin, I decided to use Vena Cava's cotton backed corsetry satin for strength and durability. However, as this only comes in a very limited colour range (black, white, pink and red) I knew I would have to experiment with dyes for the first time. Vena Cava's website said that the white satin dyes particularly well using Dylon so I did a little bit of research.

At first I intended to use the machine wash as this seemed the simplest option but, having read a few reviews, I wasn't convinced about the well-being of my washing machine (and when I say "mine", it isn't actually mine which meant that I was even more cautious about permanently staining the rubber seals or somebody else's washing). I therefore bought a packet of the Dylon hand wash powder in Ocean blue, the closest shade to the one I had envisaged for my corset.

The Dylon "Ocean Blue" dye and the white satin - BEFORE

Armed with a large plastic box, a stirring stick borrowed from some garden supplies, some salt and a pair of rubber gloves I was ready to begin. I pre-washed the satin in the machine, partly because the instructions directed me to wash the fabric first but also to pre-shrink it just in case. I then prepared the dye bath with the dye, warm water and salt, as per the instructions. This was really straightforward, although I was perturbed at first to see the dye, which initially turned from greyish-white to dark blue when the water was added, deepen to an intense shade of purple. Purple - definitely not blue! I thought, however, that perhaps it needed to be darker as not all of the colour would be absorbed so went ahead.

It took a while though before I was convinced that I was going to end up with blue fabric. When I first immersed the fabric, it sucked up the dye and turned an insipid shade of lilac! I spent the first half hour of stirring trying to tell myself that perhaps a purple corset wouldn't be so bad.

Uh oh - pale purple fabric!

 But, miraculously, as I stirred and stirred for the next hour or so the fabric became darker and darker purple and then, slowly, began to turn blue. Having studied textile histories I do have a basic understanding of dyeing processes, but actually watching it was rather like magic and how it went from a deep purple to bright blue remains a mystery. When is was time to remove the fabric from the bath it was a very bright shade of royal blue - not quite what the shade on the packet but OK and I suspected some of the colour would come back out in the rinsing.

The light is not particularly good in this picture, but the blue was very bright
Next came the hard work - it took absolutely ages of rinsing and wringing until the water began to run clear and even more colour came out when I washed the fabric in warm water. But eventually it was thoroughly washed and rinsed and ready to dry naturally. At this stage, it was still quite a bright blue and I left it to dry overnight. When I woke up in the morning, the first thing I did was to check the fabric and was surprised to discover that it had dried to a deepish shade of cornflower blue, nearly identical to the colour spot on the packaging!

The dried fabric - AFTER

I rinsed the fabric again in the machine for good measure to make sure any remaining dye was removed and then dried it and pressed it and pressed it and pressed it to get rid of all the creases from the washing, stirring and wringing! This was probably the one down side of this method. It wouldn't be great for delicate fabrics and it took a long time to de-crease. Having said that, having a steam generator iron really helped.

Despite all of the elbow grease required, the end result was very satisfactory. I now have all of my pieces cut out and ready to go, silky smooth and exactly the shade I imagined them. Hooray for Dylon! And although they definitely weren't around in 1880, I can't help thinking that my corset is going to be a beautiful shade of Smurf-blue!

And, just to finish, here are some sneaky peeks of my experiments with the leather and some lace to get an idea of what the finished piece will look like...

In my next corset post I will share the mock-ups of the corset and what I did to adapt the pattern to fit. And hopefully this week I will actually be able to start constructing the corset now that my spoon busk has arrived. All will depend on how my experiments with sewing the leather go...Any tips much appreciated.