Differential dyeing (double dyeing?)

Hey all,

I've been experimenting with a new technique that (for lack of a better name) I've been calling "differential dyeing".  I'm weaving a fabric with cellulose fiber warp and animal fiber weft, then dyeing it twice - once with fiber-reactive dyes under alkaline conditions, to dye the cellulose, and once with acid dyes + acid, to dye the animal fiber.  The end result is pretty interesting, though I've only done my first set of experiments.

Here is a running horse, dyed first with yellow fiber-reactive dye (dyeing the tencel warp) and then stenciled with blue acid dye (dyeing the alpaca weft):

differentially dyed running horse

You can see the "differential dyeing" in the background, where the tencel dyed yellow and the alpaca dyed blue.  The pattern is a 2/2 twill, producing stripes.

In this photo you can see what happens when you introduce a more complicated pattern into the weave:

You can see the diamonds give a very different effect than the twill!  It's more complex, more visual interest, more "jazzed" in feel.

I wrote up a bunch more stuff about this on my blog, at http://www.tienchiu.com/2011/03/differential-dyeing-part-ii/

What I'm wondering is, is anyone else working with this technique?  I doubt I'm the first to come up with this idea, and if anyone else is working with this, I'd love to get in touch.

I will post this as a project in Weavolution once I've had a little more time to "get" the fundamentals of this technique.



Posted on Thu, 03/24/2011 - 01:56

Well, about 2 years ago I did intentionally use an acid dye on a scarf made with both rayon and wool.  

I have some concerns about whether it is really safe to put wool in contact with a soda ash solution.  So I dye painted the rayon warp as well as dyed the rayon weft before I wove the fabric.  After the scarves were woven I dyed the center wool/lycra stripe with acid dyes getting a collapse effect.  

What do you think about subjecting the alpaca to the soda ash?  Did you notice any change in the alpaca?  Since I was dye painting I soaked the rayon in the soda ash solution - something you didn't need to do.  But I have heard (or read) that even a strongly alkaline soap can give wool a harsh hand.

Your work with the twills is very interesting.  It brings to mind the Japanese silks which are sometimes woven in a richly patterned structure and then painted in patterns which do not relate to the underlying woven pattern.  Even though the structure is not highlighted by differential dyeing it is still noticeable at close range resulting in a similar lively jazzed look to my eye.  So you have gone one step farther which I think adds a very up to date feel to the work.

Thank you for sharing your experiments.

Stephanie S



Posted on Sat, 05/14/2011 - 11:45


some years ago i made some shawls from a material which was 50%linen 50% silk.i used procion mx double dyed adding acetic acid for the silk rinsed and dried. then re dyed using soda ash for the linen %. the results were  pretty interesting . unfortunately i did not document them and the shawls sold .

this thread  is timely as i am weaving some yardage now with the intention of repeating the experience this time using natural dyes with different mordants. the yarns are all cotton however, the difference will hopefully be achieved with the mordants.

fingers crossed :)

Posted on Sat, 05/14/2011 - 13:30

No question that you will get different colors with the different mordants on different substrates (yarns). The mordant change and gradations and post/pre modifiers are the natural dyers toolbelt at th dyepot. Sounds like a great learning adventure for you! Deb Mc

Posted on Mon, 05/30/2011 - 15:18

hi all,

first dip. actually it's been almost 5 days now in the pot.

  brazilwood alcohol extraction. alum tanin alum mordanted cotton, left  in the pot for 2 days after simmering.

one more thing my water is ultra hard and  heavily chlorinated so i need to buy bottled water to dye if i want good colors.

more photos here