Projects and Techniques

Dyeing to Match – A Designer’s Challenge

Dyeing to Match – A Designer’s Challenge

One of the more unusual and challenging aspects in my work as a designer is doing color work. You might think that the challenges consist mostly of deciding on a theme and coordinating colors together. Yes, that is definitely part of it, but the larger challenge for me is doing custom dye work.

Color is a huge part of the textile and apparel industry. There are several companies, such as Munsell and Pantone, whose sole role is to provide standardized colors. In the chart of paper you see on my work table, is a list of 10 colors for Spring 2009. Written next to each color in the forecast is the Pantone number. Because I was unsure of the quality of my printout (and for very good reason), I had to order 'chips' of the exact color from Pantone in order to ensure that I was looking at the correct color.

Not only are colors standardized, but there are also several services that design firms subscribe to to forecast color. While textile and apparel companies constantly work to streamline their production processes, it is still not unusual for the process to take over a year from concept to sales floor. So in order to have the 'right' color at the right time, they must rely on forecasters to give them an idea of what the consumers are likely to be drawn to in the next few years.

So you are wondering what this has to do with me? Well, at present I am working on potentially my 4th magazine article. (My second article is available now on newsstands in CraftStylish's current "Gifts to Make" issue.) When making the photo samples for an article, contrary to what you might think, I have to work with the palette for that season. I confirm with my editor what the colors will be. Sometimes I have a choice from the range of colors, and sometimes I am requested to focus on a specific color. In my "Beaded and Pleated" article for Gifts to Make, I was requested to work with 'Bermuda Blue'. Not quite turquoise, not quite cobalt...definitely a challenge! It's not always easy to find the exact color I am looking for in a fabric store (thank Goodness for Pacific Fabrics - right around the corner!), so I keep bolts of undyed silk on hand and dye to match.

In the photo you can see my work in progress. You can't tell what color the dye pots are because the colors, although light, are very saturated. The little strips are pieces of bias habotai silk (which thankfully I can buy by the 70 yard roll), similar in character to the silk I will be dyeing in order to determine whether I have reached the color I am aiming for or if I need to keep mixing. So far I have three of the colors mixed. I use instant-set dyes so luckily I don't have to steam or otherwise set my dyes. Mixing them is enough of a challenge!

There is much, much more to tell about the world of color in the textile and apparel industry. If you are interested in learning more, let me know!


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