Fabric Dyeing Record Keeping – A System Better than Scraps of Paper

I dyed the most beautiful fabric last month using  a three dye parfait method based on Ann Johnson’s book, Color by Accident.  I was trying to make fabric that looks like fire, and I succeeded!  I love how the reds blend into the yellow, just like a blazing bonfire.  Hoping to be able to replicate it, I recorded each step I took and every amount of dye…on the back of the Lowe’s receipt.  (I know my mom is shaking her head while reading this.  She know how bad I am at holding onto receipts. ) Believe it or not, that receipt is now long gone and I need to restart my experiment from scratch again. Clearly, I need a new system.

One of my goals this year is to become more intentional with  fabric dyeing record keeping. I often hand dye fabrics for my stitching and quilting projects using cold water Procion MX dyes.  I love experimenting with these dyes using low water immersion dyeing.  Low water immersion is a fabric dyeing method that calls for small amounts of dye solution and water.  You basically scrunch up the fabric while dyeing.  It leaves the fabric textured and mottled in interesting ways, unlike vat dyeing where you have a ton of water and end up with a more solid even color.

Over the years, I record information regarding my color dying experiments sporadically. At times, my notes would make it into a notebook well organized like this: I set up this notebook when I first started dyeing fabric about 5 years ago and I used it for a couple of months.  I love having a record to look back at from that time. It is so helpful to see samples of previous fabric batches when planning my colors for a new project.  I did not keep up with the notebook for a variety of reasons that I can’t completely remember now.  Maybe I lost it?  Maybe I didn’t like the form I set up and never found the time to fix it?  Whatever the reason, now, more likely than not, my amounts of dye and water used in a solution ends up on scraps of paper that find their way to the trash before I can properly record them.

Obviously, it is much easier for me to reproduce color combinations when I’m not guessing about exactly what I did last time. In an effort to re-jumpstart this process, I created a color chart of my current Procion MX dyes. I drew a 2 inch grid on a piece of cotton fabric. Then I wet the fabric with soda ash solution and carefully sprinkled a bit of each dye powder in each square.  The dyes fixed themselves to the wet fabric and you can easily see what colors make up each powder.

Most of the dyes I have bought are pure colors, but a few, like the mixing red, brown, and blacks are mixed. If you look closely at the samples, you can see the individual colors.  I plan to hang this on a bulletin board in my dyeing space and adding to it when I buy a new dye.

Also, I now have a dedicated notebook in my dyeing space for record keeping with lots of pens nearby. For each fabric dying experiment I will fill out the following form and staple a piece of fabric to the page.  It is simple and leave lots of room for notes.

Now I am properly set up for record keeping.   I just need to make sure I follow through!