I wash the silk to remove the sizing and any surface dirt, and to make it pop under black light. I use an optic whitener when I wash it. RIT Whitener & Brightener is easy to find and works well.
2. Iron, fold and tie the silk
Next I measure off a two-yard piece, fold it in half (to a 1 yard by 45″ piece), and iron it flat. I use a large table to iron the whole thing at once.
Then I fold the piece and tie it off with string. I make my knots snug, but not tight.
Sometimes it seems like I spend half my time doing this. I’ve found that making stock solutions in water bottles for each color, then transferring the stock to my squeeze bottles and diluting, lets me get consistent colors.
4. Dye the silk
Yeah! I usually keep my colors separate by tied section, but there are no rules. Here patience is a virtue. I take time to get the dye deep down into the knot, so I don’t have very large white areas.
Note the gloves. VERY important if you don’t want to look radioactive in the club.
One technique I like is to use contrasting colors (eg, light pink to dark blue) on either side of a knot, allowing the dye to work its way through the knot to the other side, creating a very nice “plasma” effect.
Another idea is use dyes that look the same in regular light but pop differently in black light. For example, two reds, one that pops orange, and another that pops black. When I use this technique, the flags look drastically different under black light. Really cool in a club with black light strobes.
5. Steam set, rinse, and open the silk
Pop the dyed silk in a not-quite-sealed bowl, and nuke it for 5-7 minutes (I use 7, because I have a small microwave). This steaming sets the dyes so they’re waterproof. Then rinse out the excess dye, and carefully cut off the strings. Unfold and admire your results!
I usually throw the silk in a dryer with a bounce sheet to set the colors a little more and help get out the vinegar smell. Sometimes I iron the silk dry.
Sometimes I’m not quite satisfied with the results, and I want to add more color. I dry the silk, refold it, and dye it again. Be careful where the colors mix, or you’ll get a muddy mess.
7. Presew the weights (optional)
To make my flags more durable, I sew my weights into strips of cloth first, using a zigzag stitch for maximum bangability. I use a cloth that’s light but durable. I call these “banger” sets, and lend them to people who are just getting started. The liner changes the way the flags flow, but it really increases the lifespan.
When the silk is finished and dry, I rip it in half and sew my weight strips in.
9.Test, Name, and Sign the flags
My flags in motion under black light are always a surprise. My friends usually come up with the names.
I’ve been making flags for several years, but tie-dying silk is something I started just a couple of years back. Xavier Caylor introduced me to this art, showed me his process, and walked me through my first silk sets. More than that, he demonstrated tons of generosity and patience.
I also want to thank Don Baker and Spin Tribe’s posters for lots of invaluable information.