Graduate of the Royal School of Needlework, London

Painters Secrets

Illustration: Macke Hugs Cezanne - Lesson 2 - First Steps (ISTA) - © BIZ

Painters Threads are exclusively handmade in our small dyeing factory. We use so-called fibre-reactive colours. Reactive because they "react" with the fibre, i.e. they create a new chemical compound. This guarantees a relatively high colour fastness, good fixation strength and high washability of excess colour.

However, the word "high" in terms of colour fastness must now be put into perspective somewhat when it comes to hand dyeing. Hand dyers are only allowed to use chemical additives to a lim-ited extent, which anchor the colours even better in the thread. In industrial dyeing, the dye is "shot" into the thread at high pres-sure, i.e. it penetrates deeper into the fibres and can thus "ask" more atoms of the fibre to bond with it. In hand dyeing, the dye is applied to the surface of the thread and is only pressed into the thread with as much pressure as the person behind it can exert. This automatically leaves more fibre and dye molecules in their old connections. Somehow in contrast to modern human relationships....

These molecules obviously do not want to stay with the thread anymore and simply wash out.... And again this similarity to human behavior..... . Of course this is very much to the chagrin of light-coloured background fabrics and white T-shirts in the same wash cycle, which do not like this behaviour of the molecules at all.

Vegetable fibres, i.e. cellulose-based fibres, are fixed at a basic level. Animal fibres, i.e. fibres based on protein, are fixed acidically.

These two basic principles of hand dyeing are responsible for the different characteristics of the colour which occur in our colours, as well as in all other dyed yarns. With the threads from the Painters Threads Collection, these differences are further enhanced by the special "hand painting".

Cotton á Broder

cotton - quadruple yarn

Silk - Soie d'Alger

Wool - crewel wool

Rayon - Shimmer

Rayon - SingleLoop

Cupro Polyester
Braided Metallics #4

brown colour powder slightly moistened

This chemical reaction during dyeing also explains why each material reproduces the colour differently.

Our example: the color 129 Friedrich

Silk and other threads consisting of protein, e.g. all animal fibres, usually reproduce the colour as a reddish tone, while cotton makes the brown appear lighter than rayon.

We have deliberately shown a brown colour here because brown is something "very special" anyway.
We put a small amount of powder on a white cloth and dissolved it with some water. You can see here very well how many single colours this colour consists of. All these small pigments react with each other during the dyeing process. If we mix this mixture with another colour, even more unpredictable compounds are created!

Likewise, each material absorbs the colour differently. Even fibres from the same base material reproduce the colours differently depending on how they are processed (spun, filament, twisted, etc.).

The best way to tell the difference between industrially dyed and hand dyed threads is to cut through the threads: hand dyed threads, especially if they are thicker threads, usually have a lighter core because the colour does not penetrate all fibres. It is only applied to the surface, the dyeing liquid does not always penetrate the whole thread.

Humans cannot deliver the same precision as machines - fortunately! Isn't it an artistically inspiring moment when I can discover different colours over and over again, even though they should be the same? Heide Stoll-Weber, owner of "farbstoff" and internationally renowned artist, who has developed a beautiful hand dyed fabric collection, once said to me: 'and then it is always so exciting when you wait in front of the washing machine and don't know how the fabric will come out today!

Of course, humans cannot work as precisely as a machine when applying the colours. When I apply three colours to a thread, it's relatively easy to keep the distances relatively equal...but I can't stop the colour from running very quickly into an area that I have already dyed with another colour or wanted to dye. And already the yellow and red becomes an orange, or the yellow and blue becomes a green.

Hand dyers are artists like those who use our products. We don't really like the perpetual sameness of our products and would like to encourage many other needleworkers to get involved in the many variations that the use of hand dyed materials makes possible. And the individual results that can be achieved.

In a time of globalization, that means that I can find MacDonalds or H&M and Aldi in the smalles rural area anywhere, it is nice to have the chance to reflect on our own individuality. Working with hand dyed materials is one way to do this.

Various "appearances" of the colour 101 Macke (represented in silk - Soie d'Alger). This is one of the most difficult colours because it contains yellow as well as red and blue. A fact that every book on hand dyeing warns against compiling...

We also cannot influence the result of the re-washing, the water always runs down. Here too, dyes are still transported, which in turn change the colours. Smaller sections to which a colour is applied run together much more than just two or three sections lying next to each other.

The colours often contain pigment parts that persistently remain in the colouring solution, are no longer perceptible to our eyes, but then "unfold" fully when washed. Suddenly there is a brown spot in the middle of the red or a blue spot in the middle of the brown. With our dyeing method, which we call more a "painting" than a dyeing, each meter is treated more or less individually, so the distribution of the colors varies extremely. Even if the blue is sometimes dark sometimes light, the red sometimes more pink, sometimes more magenta. All our colours always harmonize wonderfully with each other and can also be mixed with plain coloured threads. No matter how often the shades of the Painters colours change.

TIP:   always buy one or two more units, so that a few threads of a dye lot should not be missing at the end. With the leftovers you can quickly create small works of art for yourself or others with a few stitches.

109 Picasso in pearl cotton #8 - sometimes light - sometimes dark - although the mixture of the dyeing liquid has not changed

115 GrandmaMoses
top: Pearl Cotton #8 (mercerized cotton)
bottom: Soft Cotton (non-mercerised cotton)

There are many things that influence the result of a dye lot that have nothing to do with the artistic creativity of the dyer: the na-ture of the water (soft water produces stronger colors), the hu-midity (high humidity lets the color not soak into the fibre as good), the pretreatment of the threads (with cotton, for example, the proportion of mercerization liquor on the fiber can vary and influence the color reaction) and, last but not least, the cosmos: root days are very bad, flowering days are good for cotton, fruit days good for silk .... believe me, I've been testing it for months! ... and much more.

The colour powders that we need are also not consistent. There is the colour "jade" once more jade blue, once more jade green, the colour "lemon" once more yellow, once more green-yellow. Again and again it also happens that colour powders are no longer available from the manufacturer. Then the trial and error starts all over again... and often the colour simply cannot be restored as it was before. Our students once had the following topic as a guideline for a project: "Change is the only constant in life" - nothing hits the complexity of hand dyeing better than this sentence!

The texture of the colours also changes from delivery to delivery: what previously had a feeling of coloured sand is more like flour the next time. Many of us hand dyers don't work with grams, the measuring accuracy here is difficult to achieve with "normal" scales and very complicated, but with spoon measures. But now a spoonful of sand is much heavier than a spoonful of flour and flour often refuses quite constantly to dissolve properly.... and all tests have been virtually for the cat!

This colour powder is one of our most important basic colours: Green

On the left side you will see one delivery, on the right side the next delivery. Apart from the colour, the consistency has also changed (see above), left flour-like, right sandy.

Sometimes you are lucky and the coloring looks similar anyway. Unfortunately, in this case it was not so. What was blue-green before is now yellow-green.

As you can imagine, we would now have to re-test all mixtures containing this color....

This is how different the colour 121 Cezanne looks now, which uses the green shown above as its base colour...
above: old paint powder - below: new paint powder

Many of you know the most famous fibre reactive colours "Procion MX" - MX stands for mixture. There are only a few pure colours. Although these blends are produced by machines, these blends can vary as well. In order to achieve a certain shade of colour, we now mix our favourites from these mixed colours. And if you now imagine as an example that we use a mixture of two sandy colours, and one of these two colours is suddenly mealy.....the ratio must then be determined completely new. The mixture cannot be shaken evenly, because the heavier color naturally always sinks to the bottom. For our eyes everything looks "as usual", but the final result is often a little different....

A few more examples of difficult colors, ...that look one way or another...

Cotton braid colour 117 Niki

Silk ribbon color 102 Kandinsky

Shimmer Color 115 GrandmaMoses

We wish you much fun with our products!

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