Today I drove to Fairfax to try and find Sundog Productions, a local company which produces tie-dyed items. I needed some lab coats custom tie-dyed and also wanted to see the place first hand after hearing about Joe's visit. He had been there a few years ago and if he hadn't given me such good directions, I would never have found it.
They've been in this building which was due for demolition for about 13 years and adapted it to their needs. Set right back from the main road, it was almost hidden by trees and bushes with dark windows and an almost decaying appearance. It looked like something our urbexing group would be interested in exploring until I walked through the front door. Inside was a riot of color with tie-dyed t-shirts, towels, sweatshirts and other items hanging all over the place, clearly a busy place and a contrast from it's drab exterior.
I discussed my needs with the owners and Dave explained some of the processes to me. All garments are white from the start and prewashed in a soda ash mix, basically a laundry detergent without perfume and softeners, they use over half a barrel a day. They're washed to remove a coating that’s applied to the fabric pieces before being sewn together, this is like a wax coating and ensures the needles slip between the fibers when stitching and don’t pierce the fibers which could lead to pin holes forming. Usually garments are sewn together using a polyester thread so these do not absorb the dyes. My lab coats were then given the water sprinkle test by Cas, to see how much of a coating they had on them which was not much, evident by how quickly the water was absorbed.
Dave gave me a tour of the place. I wasn't allowed to take many photos which was understandable but it was interesting to see the procedures. All the garments are decorated by hand in different patterns. I saw crinkles, spirals, circles, stripes and gradual blends.
This guy was checking the finished shirts. It takes 5 days to complete the shirts from start to finish, including quality control. This can be reduced to 6 hrs for a rush but this method is not preferred on larger orders as steam is used to speed up the process and this can make the colors bleed. So the rush jobs are used usually just samples.
There were lots of large plastic bins and vats on floor as well as racks filled with trays of shirts absorbing the dye, shirts in different stages of the process. Sundog produces 2-3000 pieces a day, and when pushed can output 5000. There is also a screen print area to decorate shirts including concerts shirts for Jimmy Buffet, Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead, Furthur, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan to name a few.
We walked along shelves of finished shirts finally winding our way back to the office area. It had been an interesting insight to the tie-dye world and refreshing to see that in a world relying so much on automatic production lines a great deal of it was still done by hand and involved skill. I left and as I drove away, I looked back, making a mental note of where the building was, and half expecting it to shimmer and fade away.