Painters Threads Secrets


Painters Threads Secrets

Painters Threads Secrets won't tell you how we make our treasures, of course... we'll give you some information here that will help you understand all the ins and outs of hand-dyed threads a little better.

Painters Threads are exclusively handmade in our small dyeing manufactory. We use so-called fibre reactive dyes. Reactive because they "react" with the fibre, i.e. create a new chemical compound. Through this, they guarantee a relatively high colour fastness, good fixing strength and high washability of the excess dye.

However, the word "high" for colour fastness has to be put into perspective for hand dyeing. Hand dyers are only allowed to a limited extent to use chemical additives which anchor the colours even better in the thread. In industrial dyeing, the dye is "shot" into the threads with high pressure, so it penetrates deeper into the fibres and can "ask" more atoms of the fibre to join it. In hand dyeing, the dye is applied to the surface of the thread and thus only pressed into the thread with as much pressure as the person standing behind it can exert. So more fibre and dye molecules automatically remain in their old connections. Somehow in contrast to modern human relationships....

These molecules then obviously no longer feel like staying in the thread and simply wash themselves out.... And again this similarity with human behaviour..... . Of course, much to the chagrin of light-coloured working backgrounds 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 in a basic way. Animal fibres, i.e. protein-based fibres, are fixed acidically.

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

Cotton - Stranded Cotton

Cotton - Cotton á Broder

Silk - Soie d'Alger

Wool - Crewel Wool

Rayon - Shimmer

Rayon - SingleLoop

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 colour 129 Friedrich

Silk and other protein-based fibres, e.g. all animal fibres, usually reproduce the colour as a reddish tone, while cotton makes the brown look lighter than rayon.

We have deliberately shown a brown colour here because brown is something "very special" anyway.
We put a small quantity powder on a white cloth and dissolved it with some water. This is how it is done for dyeing, where the colour powder is dissolved in water to form a liquid solution. Here you can see very well how many single colours this colour consists of. All these small pigments react with each other during the dyeing process. If we now mix this mixture with another colour, well, then even more unpredictable compounds are created!

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

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

Humans also cannot deliver the same precision as machines - fortunately! Isn't it just an artistically inspiring moment when I can discover different colours again and again, although they should actually 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's always so exciting when you're waiting in front of the washing machine and don't know how the fabric will come out today!'

Of course, a human being cannot work as precisely as a machine when applying the colours. If I apply three colours to a thread , it is relatively easy to keep the distances relatively equal...but I cannot stop the colour from running very quickly into an area that I have actually already coloured or still wanted to colour with another colour. And then the yellow and red become orange, or the yellow and blue become green.

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

In a time when globalisation means that I can find MacDonalds or H&M and Aldi even in the furthest corner of the world, it is nice that we have the chance to return to our very own individuality. Working with hand-dyed materials is one way of doing this.

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

We can't influence the result of the rinse either, because the water always runs downwards. Here, too, dyes are still transported, which in turn change the colours. Smaller sections on which a colour is applied run much more strongly together than just two or three sections lying next to each other.

The colours often contain pigment particles that stubbornly remain in the dye solution and are no longer perceptible to the eye, but then "fully develop" during washing. Suddenly there is a brown spot in the middle of the red or a blue spot in the middle of the brown. In our dyeing method, which we call more "painting" than dyeing, each metre is treated more or less individually, so the distribution of the colours varies extremely. Even if the blue is sometimes dark sometimes light, the red sometimes more pink, sometimes more magenta. All our colours always harmonise wonderfully with each other and are also great to mix with plain-coloured threads . No matter how often the shades of the Painters colours change.

TIP: always buy one or two more bobbins/baggies so that you don't end up with a few threads missing from dye lot . With the leftovers, you can quickly make 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 (mercerised cotton)
bottom: Matte yarn (non-mercerised cotton)

There are many things that influence the result of a dye bath that have nothing to do with the artistic creativity of the dyer: the nature of the water (soft water produces stronger colours), the humidity (high humidity makes it harder for the colours to penetrate textile material), the pre-treatment of the threads (with cotton, for example, the proportion of mercerising lye on the fibre can vary and influence the colour reaction.(for cotton, for example, the amount of mercerising lye on the fibre can vary and influence the colour reaction) and last but not least the cosmos: root days are quite bad, flower days good for cotton, fruit days good for silk....believe me, I have tested it for months!...and much more.

The colour powders that we also need to make our dye solutions are also not consistent. The colour "jade" is once more jade blue, once more jade green, the colour "lemon" once more yellow, once more green-yellow. Time and again it 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 to the way it was before. Our students once had the following theme for a project: "Change is the only constant in life " - nothing describes the complexity of hand dyeing better than this sentence!

The texture of the colours also changes from delivery to delivery: what once had a feeling of coloured sand is more like flour the next time. Many of us hand dyers do not work with grams, the measuring accuracy here is difficult to achieve with "regular" scales and very time-consuming, but with spoon measurements. However, a spoonful of sand is much heavier than a spoonful of flour, and flour often refuses to dissolve fairly consistently.... and all the tests have been in vain again!

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

On the left you can see a delivery, on the right the next delivery. Besides the colour, the consistency has also changed (see above), floury on the left, sandy on the right.

Sometimes you are lucky and the colouring still looks similar. In this case, unfortunately, that was not the case. What was blue-green before is now yellow-green.

You can imagine that we would now have to retest all the blends that contain this colour....

This is how different the colour 121 Cezanne now looks, using the green shown above as the base colour....
above: old colour powder - below: new colour 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 made by machines, they can also vary.

In order to achieve a certain shade, we mix our favourites again from these mixed colours. And if you imagine, for example, that we use a mixture of two sand-like colours, and then one of these two colours is suddenly floury.....the ratio must then be determined completely anew. The mixture cannot be shaken evenly either, because the heavier colour naturally always sinks to the bottom. To the eye, everything looks "the same as always", but the final result is often somewhat different....

A few more examples of difficult colours, that sometimes look like this and sometimes look different...

Braided Cotton Colour 117 Niki

Silk Ribbon Colour 102 Kandinsky

Shimmer Colour 115 GrandmaMoses

We hope you enjoy our products!

If you have questions about a material, a technique or courses, write us an e-mail or browse through the seminars of the International School for Textile Arts or the information on the pages of the German Embroiderers Guild.