Making dyes colorfast - Hmong fabrics
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Author:  RJL [ Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Making dyes colorfast - Hmong fabrics

My family & I recently traveled to Sa Pa in northern Vietnam and, like many others, fell in love with the textiles. We returned home with quite a few and are struggling to deal with the bleeding dyes. We have tried soaking them in salt water -- as advised by many people -- with no success. In searching the web for guidance, we came across a product called Retayne. However, this product is apparently only useful with certain types of dyes. Notably, it is not effective with "basic dyes."

Being mere tourists and not textile specialists, we have no idea what sort of dye was used on the garments we purchased. I suspect, given the level of tourism and commerce in Sa Pa, that traditional vegetable/botanical dyes were not used, but I have no way of knowing. Nor do I know what sort of chemical dyes might have been used.

Does anyone have any suggestions regarding fixing the dyes and/or determining the type of dyes used?


Author:  Pamela [ Wed Sep 14, 2011 1:56 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi RJL and welcome.

I don't think we have any expert re testing dyes on the forum but would like to be pleasantly surprised!

I have not used or seen 'Retayne' which is possibly a US product and not available here in Europe under that name.

My guess re dyes in your Sa Pa textiles is that the only natural dye might be indigo and even this is most likely to be a chemical not natural indigo. It is the reds that are usually the most fugitive. My advice here would be to only use cold water and avoid leaving a textile with reds soaking but keep it moving. Dry flat on a towel outside but not in direct sunlight (to avoid fading) - don't hang up to allow the dyes to bleed downwards.

If possible avoid washing but use a brush - re dust - and have a go at spot cleaning any more obvious marks. There is a school of thought that just puts textiles in a cool cycle in the washing machine with some pure soap flakes. I am very hesitant about this unless it is something like a quilt that you want to use on a bed. I have taken the risk when I was very concerned about hygiene.

I am moving this thread to a different part of the forum where there are other posts about the care of textiles but will leave a shadow post on the General forum where you originally posted your question.

Author:  RJL [ Wed Sep 14, 2011 2:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Making dyes colorfast - Hmong fabrics

Pamela, thanks for your help. We have already tried washing in cool water and the dyes were released from the fabrics in great quantities. Even our sink was stained! I think we need to fix the dyes in some way otherwise Hmong garments will stain any clothes that we wear with them.


Author:  Above the Fray [ Mon Sep 19, 2011 4:04 pm ]
Post subject: 

If the dye is blue, black or green, it is from the excess indigo. It may be an overdye of indigo, where the textile, once brighter, has been soaked in indigo to cast a blue or green tone over the entire piece. Overdyes are notoriously big bleeders as it is tough to get indigo to bond well with hemp and cottons that are already dyed. If an overdye, you may wash out the indigo almost entirely before you have a clearish rinse. Some seem to hold better than others, probably because of differing overdyeing techniques.

Some of the unwashed indigo jackets and pants (not overdyed) are often un-rinsed since dyeing. Typically there is more indigo dye in the new fabric than can bond with the original material, in which case several thorough rinses will get rid of (most of ) the un-bonded indigo. It can look like a lot sometimes, but you shouldn't see a dramatic loss of color on the original fabric if the dye-process was properly followed. If its still bleeding heavily after 6 or 8 full rinses, then the indigo wasn't properly set in the dyeing process and there's nothing you can do.

Indigo cannot be "fixed" after the fact of dyeing. Some say a salt water rinse helps, but we've found that it just has to be rinsed over and over. And yes, we have a blue-bottomed laundry sink...

Other bleeding colors are usually more problematic and are an indication that the dyer didn't process the color-batch properly.

Retayne is designed for commercial dyes on cotton; it might help on some dyes on some pieces, but I would try it on a tiny corner of the piece before committing to its full use. It won't help on the excess indigo.

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