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!


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