Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dyeing Sinamay and Silk Straw

I've been having a great time doing some dyeing lately. I don't consider myself having strong skills in doing this kind of work, but I enjoy it. I don't have the scientific part of the brain to do all the measuring needed to come up with specific colors. I mix up Procion Fiber Reactive dyes and frankly, I get what I get. Below you will see the results of dyeing some natural colored sinamay straw and a short piece of silk straw. More about that further down the post.

Here is what sinamay looks like naturally. While I'd get much stronger color strikes if I used bleached sinamay (white sinamay), I have rolls of the natural colored and save my white for specific projects.

I've skipped over all the messy business with powdered dyes, water, buckets, gloves, face masks, etc., to show you a fairly easy way of 'batching' the sinamay. By batching I mean letting the dye sit in/on the sinamay until it exhausts itself and the sinamay can no longer accept anymore dye. This takes about 12 hours, but I sped it up a bit by placing the dyed sinamay in plastic bags, placed it outside in our HOT North Carolina sun, and let it process. I continued to turn the bags over every hour or so.

Above you see the bags opened at the end of the day. I'm ready to remove them from the bags and wash out the residual dye.

All balled up and getting their first shower! Because these dyes are non-toxic I don't mind washing them out on the grass in the garden.

And here they are all washed out and ready to dry. Note the smaller turquoise piece in the center of the group. This is silk straw, which I loooooove! The warp of the weave is silk and the weft is straw. The sheen on this straw is unbelievably gorgeous. Gorgeous!

Here I've taken the small piece of silk straw to the studio to play with. Can you see the sheen? This particular piece is about 18" wide and about 30" long. So not a big piece of straw yardage to work with, but wait until you see the resulting headpieces I fashioned out of this.
The following pictures are the 3 styles I came up with while manipulating the straw. The straw weft is really the only way to bend the straw for design possibilities, the silk warp being too limp to make much of a design statement. If you are familiar with Jin Sin, it works by the same concept. Sinamay bends equally on warp and weft.

Example number 1.

Example number 2.

Example number 3.
Which one do you like best? Leave a comment here on the blog.


  1. Beautiful work!! My favorite is example number 2! You have a talent for hand shaping hats, I love it!!

    One question... before putting your sinamay in the bag, what was the previous process? Soak in a pan with the dye?

    Thank you!

  2. I think that I prefer Example #2 tho I like them all.

  3. Thanks for the feedback. Amazingly, I like #2 best as well; however, once you take these apart it is almost impossible to get back to a shape you liked previously! Arrgh! So #3, the last I shaped, is the one that is now a headpiece. Pictures to be posted right away.

    Cristina, yes, the straws were all soaked in dye with a fixative before they were batched. Do you do any dyeing?

  4. Awesome, I must say,, awesome,, lovely work Jan,, you are so skilled....

  5. Where can I get the silk straw and Raffia yardage to purchase....

  6. Thank you so much! This is the student's work, however. They did a fantastic job! Get the silk straw from millinery suppliers. Not exactly sure where I got the raffia but it is not hard to find.

  7. Goodness, I just realized your comment was for THIS post not from the Atlanta class. (See more current post from me.) Yes, this IS my work and thank you. But since you mentioned raffia, and there is none in this post, I'm assuming you saw the Atlanta post. Sorry for the confusion!!