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Students examine dyed fabrics during National Chemistry Week

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Posted on Wednesday, November 16, 2022

This year’s National Chemistry Week theme, “Fabulous Fibers: The Chemistry of Fabrics,” gave three Westminster College professors from different disciplines the opportunity to discuss a common thread—dyed fabric—and chemistry’s presence in it.

Dr. Jessica Sarver, associate professor of chemistry, Dr. Pamela Richardson, professor of mathematics, and Summer Zickefoose, associate professor of art, discussed the art of fabric dyeing and the chemistry involved during National Chemistry Week held Oct. 16-22. A public awareness initiative of the American Chemical Society, the week promotes the value of chemistry in everyday life and is celebrated around “Mole Day,” Oct. 23, the date associated with 6.02*10^23—or Avogadro’s number, a fundamental unit of chemistry.

Sarver discussed the chemistry of fabrics and dyes, while Richardson explained the process of dyeing yarn and how changes in the process create unique color characteristics. Zickefoose described how fabrics can be prepared for dyeing with indigo based on the Japanese dyeing technique known as Shibori. Students had the opportunity to dye cotton T-shirts after folding or twisting them into unique patterns.

“This event was a great way to highlight how chemistry is ever-present in our daily lives as well as the unique role chemistry can play in art as well,” said Sarver, who also serves as chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

For more information about Westminster's Chemistry program, click here.

Above, from left, Summer Zickefoose, Pamela Richardson and Jessica Sarver. Below, students try their hands at dyeing fabric.