After a week of cat-in-ICU stress followed by a weekend at a weaving conference, my body said “Enough!” I fell over exhausted on Monday and spent sixteen hours sleeping yesterday. But I feel much better today!
And I have discovered something intriguing…fiber-reactive dyes will actually dye wool and protein fibers in an alkaline environment, in what is most likely a fiber-reactive covalent bond with the protein fibers! I asked Paula Burch (probably the greatest expert on dye chemistry for small-scale dyers) and she wrote a very interesting reply in the dye forum on her site. The short version is that fiber-reactive dyes will (mostly) dye wool in alkaline environments, just as they dye cotton. And the bond is the stronger covalent bond characteristic of fiber-reactive dyes on cotton…so it is very permanent indeed! The only problem is that the high pH will damage wool, which is why it isn’t done that way. (Used at a low pH, the bond is the weaker ionic bond, so is not terribly washfast – definitely not superior to acid dyes.)
This, of course, leads to a rather annoying conclusion: it is not possible to do a “pure” cross-dye by dyeing protein and then cellulose in totally separate baths, since the dyes for cellulose will also dye the protein fibers. (There are dyes that are designed for cross-dyeing – Dharma’s Alter Ego dyes – but they are hideously expensive.) On the other hand, this does simplify matters somewhat since it means you only have to process the fabric in one dyebath after weaving. And it is still possible to do interesting things with two dye processes…I just have to think about how to place colors and designs.
So now I plan to weave up several yards of a couple different patterns – twill blocks, crepes, fancy twills – and experiment with different ways of applying dyes. I will probably not finish before we move, but it will give me some exciting things to play with before, during, and after the move!
Speaking of moving, the flooring has finally arrived at the installer’s warehouse! I’m still waiting to see when the installation can begin, but I’m guessing May 28. If that’s the case, we’ll move in mid to late June.