November 26, 2017

Dyeing Eleventh Doctor Purple Velvet Waistcoat Fabric

I love the 11th Doctor's velvet waistcoat. 

I mean, I love all three of his waistcoats, but the velvet waistcoat might be my favorite. It's just so damn snazzy. 

It was also worn with both his "Snowmen" and "7b" costumes - two of my personal franchise favorites, and my favorite 11th Doctor costumes.

11th Doctor velvet waistcoat

As you may recall from my previous post about dyeing the 10th Doctor's blue suit fabric, earlier this year, I began learning about proper fabric dyeing from my friend Michael Cowart. 

Aside from intellectual curiosity (I love expanding my skill sets), I had the more practical goal of exercising my burgeoning skills in the pursuit of two specific projects: the aforementioned 10th Doctor blue suit fabric, and the 11th Doctor's purple velvet waistcoat. (Well, many more projects down the road, too, but just those two to start.) 

You've seen the fruits of my labor - or lack thereof - regarding the former, and I'm pleased to say that I've had much better success with the latter!

As you might recall, the 11th Doctor's velvet waistcoat fabric was so dark that it often looked black:

11th Doctor velvet waistcoat fabric
7x6 "The Snowmen"

In actuality, though, it was a dark, dark purple.

11th Doctor velvet waistcoat fabric
7x6 "The Snowmen"
11th Doctor velvet waistcoat fabric
Publicity photo (presumably 7x14 "The Name of the Doctor"
11th Doctor velvet waistcoat fabric
8x02 "The Time of the Doctor"

To replicate this effect, I applied a fabric technique that I learned from Michael, who actually figured out this particular technique at some point during the 6+ years he spent perfecting his 8th Doctor TV movie velvet dye recipe - he's a perfectionist if I've ever known one!

Dharma Trading Company's white velvet is perfect for this project, because it's a silk/rayon blend. 

Because of this particular blend, it allows one to "mix-and-match" two different colors - thus doubling the possibilities! 

The silk fibers respond to acid dye, while the rayon fibers respond to fiber-reactive dye. (Well, silk also responds to fiber-reactive dye, but as you'll see, that's irrelevant for this project.) 

Of course, this necessitates two separate dye baths - one for each type of dye. This doubles the total project time, as well as the different types of powders and chemicals you'll need, since acid dyes and fiber-reactive dyes require different types of dye baths and fixatives to work properly.

Not a meth lab
Not a meth lab

As you'll see, though, the end result is SO worth it!

The acid dye bath comes first, for two reasons: 

  1. We're acid-dyeing the silk portion of the velvet black, and in this case, it's a better idea to do the darker dye color first (especially since silk also responds to fiber-reactive dye). 

  2. Since a fiber-reactive dye bath is far cooler than an acid dye bath, it's conceivable that some of the fiber-reactive dye molecules might detach in a near-boiling acid dye bath. 

Obviously, with the dye bath being at a near-boiling temperature, this is done on a stovetop, and I bought a big-ass pot specifically for acid-dyeing several yards of fabric at a time!

25 pounds of pot
25 pounds of pot

FYI, a 100-quart pot is just large enough to be able to handle 10 yards of Dharma's velvet in a single dye bath ...

"These things must be done delicately!"
"These things must be done delicately!" 

After rinsing, the purple fiber-reactive dye bath comes next!

Hot Tub Dye Machine
Hot Tub Dye Machine

I tried several different "off-the-shelf" colors, and the one I finally landed on was Dharma's PR161 "Power Berry" - I was going for a "cooler" purple, and it certainly fit the bill! 

To me eyes, it looks pretty spot-on to the original fabric, or at least as close as I could determine based on publicity photos and fleeting glimpses in episodes. 

However, if you want a warmer, more burgundy-ish velvet, Dharma's "eggplant" may work nicely for you. Pro Chemical and Dye probably has some good options, too, but I'm quite content with the "power berry." 

Anyway, after the fiber-reactive dye bath comes a few rinse cycles (with synthrapol) to shake loose all the unbonded dye molecules ...

The end result? 

A velvet so dark it often looks black, but when viewed in certain lighting and at certain angles, one can see that it's actually sizzling with cool, electric purple.

Custom-dyed dark purple velvet
Custom-dyed dark purple velvet

Although the fabric looks black when viewed straight-on or from above, the purple is easily visible when looking up the pile.

Custom-dyed dark purple velvet

I wish I could take credit for conceiving this technique, but Michael was the brains behind it. I mean, I applied it, I experimented with the colors, but I owe him some solid acknowledgment for planting the idea in my head and getting me started. 

If you want to dye your own velvet, those are the colors I suggest using (Dharma's 413 "True Black" acid dye and PR161 "Power Berry" fiber-reactive dye). I just use their recommended depth-of-shade.

If you're wanting to dye your own velvet but don't know where to start, or if you're interested in learning about proper fabric dyeing, there's an amazing book on the subject called Synthetic Dyes for Natural Fibers (by Linda Knutson), which Michael recommended to me, and now I recommend to you! 

Synthetic Dyes for Natural Fibers (by Linda Knutson)

If you're not interested in dyeing your own, we are now offering this custom-dyed velvet by-the-yard in our Etsy shop: 

One yard should be plenty for a waistcoat. 

It's obviously been pre-washed in hot water and dried on high heat at least twice (plus a few more times to bleed off any excess dye), so it's clean, pre-shrunken, and ready to use as-is!

Custom-dyed dark purple velvet

All three of my 11th Doctor waistcoat sewing patterns are coming along nicely, and I hope to release them soon - with corresponding sewing tutorials, of course!

November 10, 2017

Dyeing the Magnoli Tenth Doctor Blue Suit Fabric

Earlier this year, I began a series of dye experiments on Magnoli Clothiers' current (2017) replica 10th Doctor blue suit fabric, with the goal being to shift the color toward what I believed to be a more "accurate" representation of the original (dyed) fabric used on the show.

Don't get me wrong; I believe Magnoli's replica blue fabric is, by far, the best option presently on the market!

But to my eye, it simply didn't look dark enough, especially in outdoor lighting, so I began trying to nudge the color a bit darker.

Although I'd had a modest amount of experience with fabric dyeing, I really want to thank my friend, Michael Cowart, for taking the time to teach me how to take my fabric-dyeing skills up to the next level (and the one after that, and the next)! 

He also recommended a fantastic book to me, entitled Synthetic Dyes for Natural Fibers by Linda Knutson, which I read and now recommend to you, if you're interested in "properly" dyeing fabric - that is, as a very precise science with reproducible results!

Synthetic Dyes for Natural Fibers - Linda Knutson

Being 100% cotton, the Magnoli fabric would require fiber-reactive dye, and my first strategy was to hit it with a "primary" (single-pigment) dye, both for the sake of simplicity and maximum amount of control over the end result. 

Naturally, my first choice was to dye the fabric with blue - specifically, Dharma Trading Company's "cobalt." 

I did three initial tests, each at a different depth of shade, just to get my bearings.

Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric
Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric
Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric

At a glance, the preliminary results looked promising. 

However, at this point I quickly realized that I was firing blind ... we all know how much the screen-used fabric seemed to respond differently to various lighting (etc.), to say nothing of post-production "color-correction!" So it was really anyone's best guess as to what the actual color of the fabric was.

I needed a solid target to aim at, so I contacted Louise Page, showed her some examples of my work, and explained what I was trying to accomplish. In addition to a personal letter, she generously provided me with a swatch of the original (dyed) blue fabric for reference!

10th Doctor blue suit fabric (screen-used)

Here's a comparison of the current Magnoli replica blue fabric and the screen-used swatch, in outdoor lighting:

Magnoli blue fabric vs. screen-used
Magnoli blue fabric vs. screen-used

As you can see, I had my work cut out for me - but I also had a solid target! 

With a swatch of screen-used fabric for reference, I made an important determination: dyeing the Magnoli fabric blue wouldn't work

(Obviously, the fabric will take the dye, but I'm speaking in context of the goal of color-matching the screen-used fabric.) 

The current Magnoli replica fabric is a green-ish blue ("teal") with "fire engine red" stripes, whereas the original fabric was more of a purple-ish cobalt/navy blue with "rust" pinstripes. 

Hitting the Magnoli fabric with cobalt dye darkened the blue base, but it only resulted in a darker (albeit slightly bluer) teal. Furthermore, the cobalt dye shifted the pinstripes toward the purple range, and I definitely didn't want to go there! 

Time for a different plan of attack!

My aforementioned friend Michael, who has far more experience (and intuition) than I do regarding these things, suggested using a magenta dye. It made sense; the red would theoretically pull the teal more toward the blue range while simultaneously darkening it and not turning the stripes purple! 

Dharma's "fuchsia red" was another primary (single-pigment) dye that seemed to fit the bill, so I gave it a shot at a 1% depth-of-shade to get my bearings with the second color, as well as to compare the results to those of the previous cobalt tests.

Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric

Yeah ... obviously, even 1% was CRAZY overkill for this!

So, I scaled it way the hell back and did a couple more tests.

Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric

These results were more promising, but alas, it didn't seem that either blue or red ("cobalt" or "fuchsia red" single-pigment) dyes were going to singlehandedly yield the results I wanted. 

We've already covered the inherent problems of exclusively using blue dye, but the problems with exclusively using red were that while it had the intended effect of nudging the teal away from green and toward dark blue, it wouldn't sufficiently darken the fabric before turning it purple, and it also left the pinstripes seemingly unaffected. 

Nevertheless, I felt as if I were on the right track with the magenta, but something was obviously missing. 

After mulling it over, it hit me: Magnoli's current fabric needed to be dyed orange

Orange, after all, is a combination of red and yellow; the red would have the aforementioned effect on the blue, but the yellow would theoretically shift those atom-red pinstripes in the orange ("rust") direction! 

Of course, the trick would be finding the right balance; too little yellow, and nothing would really happen to the stripes, but too much yellow, and it would push the blue fabric right back in the green direction. 

I used Dharma's "lemon yellow" (another primary/single-pigment dye) in combination with the aforementioned "fuchsia red" to test this theory.

Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric
Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric

I was getting closer with each test, but no combination of red/yellow seemed to yield a satisfactory result. 

I'd tried two different primary/single-pigment dyes individually, I'd tried custom-mixing two primary/single-pigment dyes, and I simply resigned myself to the fact that to accomplish my goal, I was going to have to determine a custom-mix of three primary dye colors. 

Testing a three-way color balance and various depths of shade can not only be infuriatingly slow going, but it also quickly eats up one's fabric supply; dye formulas are determined by weight and I typically test 5g swatches, which are rather large with a lightweight cotton fabric like this. At $60/yard, I wanted to reach a solution as quickly as possible!

When determining a custom dye recipe, my plan was for the magenta to nudge the teal towards a purple-ish navy, the yellow to nudge the stripes towards the "rust" red, and for the cobalt to simultaneously darken the blue and "keep things on track" - that is, keep the magenta from turning the fabric too purple, and keep the yellow from turning the fabric too green. 

In addition to injecting a bit of blue ("cobalt") into the mix, I also increased the yellow quite a bit to see what would happen to the stripes. Unfortunately, the stripes still remained (almost?) unchanged, and the blue base was too green (damn it).

Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric

Unfortunately, I was ultimately unable to achieve a decent color match with the stripes; if you'll closely examine the Magnoli stripes in comparison to the stripes on the screen-used fabric, you'll notice that the latter stripes are actually lighter (or at least paler) than the former, and fabric-dyeing basically only goes in a darker direction ... 

Here are some fabrics I had sitting around, used solely as an approximate color reference for the pinstripes:

Pinstripe color references
Pinstripe color references

Even if the pinstripes' color discrepancy was entirely independent of the blue base, I don't see how it could be done. Throw in the blue base itself, and it basically entails shifting two separate colors on the color wheel in two separate directions, all at once, with only one dye recipe. 

(To be clear, I'm not saying it can't be done, only that I don't see how.) 

So, having accepted that little to nothing could be done about the stripes, I prioritized the blue fabric base.

With that goal in mind, fast-forward a few weeks, and I'd narrowed it down to four contenders.

Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric
Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric
Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric

I believe the "winner" (and I use that term loosely) to be this particular formula:

Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric
Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric
Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric

However, I offer that formula with the following caveat: trying to dye the current Magnoli fabric to match the screen-used fabric is like trying to color-match a kaleidoscope. 

I could go into yawn-inducing detail as to why, but suffice it to say that I've learned the two fabrics are simply woven differently and, as a result, will never truly match. 

For example, those four "final contenders" I just mentioned all looked fantastic (well, at least tolerable) from directly overhead, but when viewed from the side, they weren't anywhere close!

Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric
Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric
Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric

And as a final, more specific example that may blow your mind: the following two photos are of the exact same test swatch, on the exact same background, photographed with the exact same camera in the exact same light within moments of each other, and neither have any color-editing at all. 

The only difference between the two is the direction of the light; in the second photo, I simply rotated the swatch 180° in relation to the direction of the sunlight. (Observe the directions of the shadows.)

Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric
Dye experiments w/ Magnoli blue fabric

As you can see, with the light hitting the test swatch at one angle, it looks pretty good, but with the light hitting it at the opposite angle, it looks terrible.

So where does that leave us? 

Well, we can at least achieve a better color match with the blue base (facing one direction, anyway), so for those of you who want to try to darken your Magnoli fabric, feel free to use any of the dye recipes I've presented here! 

As you've seen, I believe the best results to be with a combination of 60% fuchsia red, 15% lemon yellow, and 25% cobalt, dyed at a 0.6% depth-of-shade. 

All of those dyes, as well as other necessary supplies (synthrapol and soda ash fixative) can be ordered on Dharma's web site. 

If you do give this a shot, I'd be curious to see your results, and if you're somehow able to improve upon them, I'd love to hear about that, too! 

Stay tuned here on the blog (or, better yet, subscribe to my "Costume Guide" e-mail newsletter - upper right corner) for more regarding the blue fabric, as well as a corresponding dye project with the brown, plus my upcoming 11th Doctor waistcoat patterns and sewing tutorials!