Friday, October 15, 2010

Dyeing Corn Fiber ~ Part II

In Part I of Dyeing Corn Fiber, I relayed the details of how corn fiber is produced and some of the properties. In this series, I'm exploring this eco-friendly product to see how it will interact with other fibers and dyes.

We have established that corn fiber, while coming from corn, is the result of bioengineering and is technically a synthetic fiber. Therefore it will need dyes specifically created for synthetic fiber. Even given this knowledge, I am experimenting with acid and fiber reactive dyes. The reason for this is to see how the corn fiber will behave when blended with other fibers like wool and cotton.

This small picture shows how well the corn fiber dyed using acid reactive dyes. Had this been wool, the result would have been a bright orange. As you can see, the corn fiber only achieved a light amber. This is actually a rather nice outcome. What it means to us as fiber artists is that we can blend corn fiber with wool and other protein fibers and expect that it will take some color. Blending a little corn fiber in with your wool would be a nice way to create highlights in your roving.

Now on to Part II and today's results working with fiber reactive dyes. These are dyes used to color cellulose fibers such as cotton, bamboo or hemp. Take a look at the two larger pictures at the top of this post. I chose a rich tangerine color to test my corn fiber. I used a process that is typically used for cellulose fibers. The corn fiber was treated with soda ash and salt was added to the dye bath. It was given the same amount of heat and time that I would give any cellulose fiber and then allowed to completely cool.

The picture with the red background shows the corn fiber after the dyeing process. As you can see, the dye did not take even in the slightest. The dye simply rinsed right out. This means that if we blend corn fiber with cotton or bamboo, we cannot expect to dye them together with good results. Of course we could think of the corn fiber as a kind of resist. It would be an effective way to have touches of white in your finished product.

I won't feel like my report is complete until I dye some corn fiber with the appropriate kind of dye. It will take me about a week to order and receive the dye, so until then, I have a question for you. What do you think about corn fiber? Does it bother you that it is bioengineered? Do you find the fact that it is renewable and biodegradable compelling?

Would you be interested in working with corn fiber?

I'm trying to decide whether or not to add corn fiber to my inventory at Wind Rose Fiber Studio. I could create a line of hand painted corn fiber and sell it by the ounce, but I wonder if there is enough interest in the product.

I've created a poll on the left hand side of this blog. I'd love to know how you feel!

Related Posts:
Corn Fiber!
Dyeing Corn Fiber ~ Part I


WonderWhyGal said...

I would love to try some corn fiber. You know if it's in your shop, I'll order some.

Thank you for the explanations too.

I have to admit, the first time I bought dyed silk from a well known Etsy Seller, I was disappointed because the color didn't carry all the way through the roving. It was supposed to be a gorgeous purple but the inside was white...and I spent good money for it.

When I ordered my fiber from you...I was delighted to spin a gorgeous green (I can't remember the shade right now) that was solid all the way through. You had me at dye.

Thank you for all of the information you share with us. I've learned so much from you.


Jenn said...

Thanks Andrea,

Soy silk, silk, hemp... some of these fibers are so hard to get an even dye. Sometimes I worry that my early efforts may have occasionally disappointed. I'm pretty fierce with my own quality control these days. I very often find myself running fibers like silk through the dye process a second time.

I think it was the Grass Green that you ordered from me. I love that color too. I'm so pleased you were happy with it!

LisaK said...

Very interesting, thanks. I just acquired some corn fiber and wasn't sure how to approach dyeing it. How would you set the twist with it? Do you think it would also blend well with something like flax? Since it does have a rather coarse feel to it and is reputed to be very sturdy, I was thinking of blending it with something like flax or hemp and either knitting or weaving it into a handbag or tote.

Jenn said...

Hi Lisa, thanks for your comment. Back when I wrote this post, I was still making my own mind up about corn fiber. Ultimately I've steered away primarily because the only way to achieve a good color fast dye is by using dyes specifically for a synthetic fiber. Even though corn fiber is derived from corn, the process by which it is produced is very synthesized. My corn fiber was quite soft, so I'm wondering if you have a different sort of product that you are working with. I do think there would be benefits to blending corn with another fiber. It would add contrast when dyed since the corn doesn't take the dye as well and the blending fiber could add some positive texture. I didn't end up spinning any of the corn I had, at least I don't think I did. I think it would have worked better in a plied yarn and would have behaved in a similar fashion to bamboo (not the bast fiber). I am by no means a corn fiber expert. These are my musings based on my limited experience.