The Good and the Bad, With A Side of Ugly

I said I’d show the fabric I dyed at my Sue Benner workshop, but let me warn you my results aren’t swoon worthy. Painting with dye can be tricky. The reds will gallop ahead and take over any space they can. The turquoises will be shy and often show up very late. Spray bottles will be temperamental and drop blobs where you want a haze. Thickening the dye helps, but it can be difficult for a neophyte to gauge how thin or thick a line a squeeze bottle will draw. My point is often you won’t know what you’ll get until you wash and dry the fabric.

I’ll begin with fabrics that began as black painted or monoprinted on fabric. A second pass added color.

In the above I splodged on black from a squeeze bottle and dragged a comb through it. After it sat for a few hours I put a vinyl bathmat under the fabric and rollered on several colors of dye.

In this one I applied the black to the tile board with a paint brush, dragged a notched tool through it, and then used a wipe away tool to remove the black. I laid my fabric on top of the board and rollered over the cloth to take a print. Once the cloth was dry I painted thickened yellow and turquoise dye onto a sheet of vinyl and pressed the vinyl paint side down onto my fabric.

For this one I painted thickened black on my board with a brush, made the curved Xes with the wipe out tool, pressed the cloth over it, and let it sit overnight without washing. The next day I used a stencil to add the green and yellow thin dyes.

Again, I used thickened black dye patterned with a kitchen scrubber and a comb on my tile board. I took the print, let it sit about 2 hours, and then added red and blue violet thin dyes. You can see how the red spread out.

Next, I took up brown thickened dye.

First I applied pale apricot thin dye using a stencil (a vinyl place mat). Next I placed a foam stamp under the fabric and rollered thickened brown dye over it. Then, a fellow student introduced me to felt tip type markers that you fill with your own ink or thin dye. I used that to make the boxes.

I combined a stencil, a sponge and a spatula to make the background. Then I used squeeze bottles to apply the red and turquoise. I had hoped the turquoise would spread out more but that wasn’t to be. I think if I had sprayed chemical water (don’t ask) over the fabric before the turquoise went on it would have spread.

For this one I painted two layers over splotchy turquoise and gold. The first layer of thickened turquoise was applied with a brush on vinyl, which was pressed onto the cloth. I used a squeeze bottle for the second layer of metallic gold paint.

Several other fabrics were less successful in that there’s still a lot of white showing. Like I said, I found it tricky to assess the amount of dye to use. The good news is that I can over dye them easily. If any of my fabrics come out well, I’ll show them off to you. Otherwise, they’ll get cut up and used in supporting roles.

Here’s some tool nerd information for those of you who might be interested. The Kemper wipe out tool is about the size of a pencil with silicone rubber shaping edges at both ends. It came with my class kit. The felt tip markers are designed for ink but work with thin dyes.


Filed under dyeing, Fabric Printing

12 responses to “The Good and the Bad, With A Side of Ugly

  1. The more you show of your work with dyes, the less I think it’s for me to do. I don’t think I have the temperament for it. It just looks *hard* to tell the truth! But you know I’m really glad you enjoy it, as I get a kick out of it vicariously!

    • Well, until you master it, dyeing is hard to control. Results are often a surprise. There are other kinds of dyeing that are more predictable, including color gradations. I hope to do some of those this summer, in plastic bags, using one dye color that’s diluted to get a dark to light spectrum. I’ll think of you as I wash out my next dyeing experiments.

  2. Indeed. I took one dying workshop and decided I would just pay the high price for hand dyes done by somebody else from now on.

    • Yes, it’s a steep learning curve and requires the space to do all the rinsing and washing out of your dyed fabric. I don’t flat dye yardage but will dye custom effects and gradations. And there are lovely hand dyes available for sale.

  3. That must have been fun trying (and learning) so many different techniques. As soon as I saw the first image I thought – bridges or train rails over water and the reflecting the sunset! Having postcards on the brain right now I thought, depending on the size of the fabric, I would cut a 4″ x 6″ rectangle from a piece of card stock and float it over the fabrics, I’ll bet you would come up with some awesome postcard fronts!

    • What a good way to use fabrics that don’t cohere as a whole, but have useful parts. I like your interpretation of that piece. Of course, I was working totally abstractly.

  4. Barbara

    Those are some interesting techniques! I like the 4th and 5th ones. The fifth one looks like oriental writing. That class must have been loads of fun.

  5. I can’t wait to see what you are going to do with these. I see a lot of possibilities for continuing the collage effect.

  6. I like some of these quite a lot and I imagine you do, too. The best part of all of this, though, I’d think, is the chance to play and experiment and begin to see what approaches are worth adding to your repertoire.

    • I’m hoping to use the monoprinting techniques with my jelli plate and fabric screen printing ink. I feel a lot of “I should have done it this way” but the knowledge of how the dyes work comes only with hands on experience.

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