Tag Archives: fabric dyeing

What A Revoltin’ Development This Is

That was the catch phrase for a 1950s TV sitcom called “The Life of Riley.” It’s still relevant today for situations like the one I got into with a humble lap quilt. On the down low I’ve been making a bricks pattern quilt with an assortment of materials that range from hand dyed cottons to commercial prints, with thermofax prints and Spoonflower printed photographic fabric as well. Its chief purpose is to use up experiments and large scraps that I’ve had too long.

Construction was uneventful. I found a backing fabric, on sale of course, and handed it over to a local long arm quilter, Eva Birch, for edge to edge quilting. My quilt was ready in good time, and I decided to wash it to encourage crinkling before I bound it. I am sure you’ve seen it coming; that’s when the trouble began.

Two of the quilt fabrics were dyed by me, a lime green and a blue-violet. They were in the last batch of fabric I dyed before I swore off dyeing. I guess I didn’t rinse them thoroughly enough. I know it was a cool day and my back hurt from hauling around buckets of water. (I have no sink suitable for dyeing.) I did run them through the washing machine, but maybe two times through would have been better.

When I pulled my new quilt out of the dryer I noticed that the lime green had bled a bit. Quickly I looked up Vicki Welsh’s instructions for soaking out dye bleeds and filled up my whirlpool tub with hot-hot water and Dawn liquid. After an hour the water was really green. I drained the tub and set up another soak, this time for overnight. The next morning the water looked pretty clear, so I popped the quilt into the washer for a rinse, and then dried it. To my delight, almost all the green stains were gone. To my dismay, I found that the blue-violet had now bled a bit around the edges. Even worse, the backing, heretofore fine, was now stained.

I’ve circled some of the offending areas.

I wasn’t about to soak the quilt again, so I used a white Posca pen to touch up the worst of the areas on the top and ignored the problems on the back. Here’s “Linearity.”

Photographed in poor lighting by me. I am not hiring a pro photographer for a lap quilt that will never be in a show. 46″ by 64″

I am not the only quilter with such problems. Recently I read Timna Tarr’s account of her adventures with fabric bleeding. Her problems came from vintage red fabrics. While washing in hot water took out some of the staining, she opted to use applique patches to cover problem areas. It’s a good lesson in creative solutions.

Now the only problem I have left is the rest of the fabrics I dyed that last day. I threw out the remainder of the lime green, and rewashed the blue-violet gradient I had dyed. I think it will be okay as long as I don’t wash whatever I use it in. Fingers crossed.

Blue-violet gradient, minus a few steps.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Completed Projects, dyeing

My Last Dyeing Session

Like many quilters, I started dyeing my own fabric to expand my choices and develop one-of-a-kind material. Ever since I took a Craftsy course from Jane Dunnewold about seven or eight years ago I’ve tried to have at least one fabric coloring session every year. Lately that has taken the form of sun printing or some other form of fabric painting because it’s a pain to haul out the dyeing supplies and messy to do in my less than optimal dyeing space – my garage.

I’ve done shibori dyeing, thickened dye paste painting, ice dyeing, trash can lid dyeing, gradated dyeing, and some other types I don’t recall. I’ve taken classes and worked on my own or with friends. Many of the techniques aren’t new to me, but this week it seemed like I had forgotten most of what I had learned.

Using too much dye powder – check, overfilling containers – check, confusing strong orange with strong red – check, not wearing a glove on my dominant hand (I had only a right hand glove) and then picking up a dye soaked rag – check. You get the picture.

All told I dyed about three yards and pretty much wiped out my stash of to be dyed cloth. I made a blue-violet eight color gradation with pimatex cotton, overdyed white on white printed fabric, overdyed four stained damask napkins, and dyed a thrift store scarf.

I think the label translates as hand made.

I wish I could say the results were worth it. They’re okay, but show rookie mistakes like putting the blue violet cloth in the same rinsing bucket as the purple cloth. And then there are my hands that look like I’ve been squeezing blueberries.

My personal cost benefit analysis says it’s time to give away the dyeing supplies. All the bending down to reach the low garage water spigots (we have no utility sink) and the emptying of rinse buckets was hard on my back. Clean up was messy. I can get better results with a few mouse clicks and my credit card.

I still have lots of fabric paint and some lovely silk awaiting my brush.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under dyeing

Intense Work for Intense Color

Last week I spent five days in Sue Benner’s Expressive Dye-painting and Printing with Procion MX Dyes class at the Quilt Surface Design Symposium (QSDS) in Columbus, Ohio. It’s a good thing the scenery of that thriving mid Ohio city wasn’t a distraction as my days in the studio began at 7:30 a.m. and often ended at 8 p.m., with breaks for meals.

Here’s what I saw on the way to the studio each morning. The studio, on the campus of the Columbus College of Art and Design, is a converted car dealership.

No, Sue didn’t set such hours for us, but I wanted to do as much as possible, and there’s a heap of washerwoman work involved in dyeing that eats up time. Once dyed, the fabric needs to batch (sit at least 12 hours at 70 plus degrees,) be rinsed (agitated in buckets of cold water until the water is mostly free of dye,) and then washed in hot water (we had a washing machine, thank goodness) and dried and ironed.

There are many approaches to dyeing fabric, all of them developed for different purposes. Dyeing solid color yardage needs a different technique than making patterns on cloth. The class I took stressed abstract painting and printing on silk and cotton with thin and thickened dyes. The dye concentrate tablecloth quickly became colorful.

We applied dyes directly to our fabrics with brushes, squeeze bottles, sprayers, and the like. We also monoprinted our fabrics using vinyl sheets and masonite boards known as tile boards.

Here’s my work table when it was tidied up. The big white square is the tile board.

And I haven’t yet mentioned rubbing, stenciling, stamping and the like. We all fell in love with textured vinyl bathtub mats for making rubbings. The pebbled pattern was especially popular. I used it under the fabric on the right below.

I did at least two layers of dyeing on each piece of my fabric. I learned I could let a piece batch an hour (as in the photo below) and then add more dye to it without the need to wash the fabric in between. This was a real time saver as I didn’t need to do a soda ash soak in between layers of dye. That’s right, you need to reapply soda ash between washings.

While we learned by doing, Sue worked on her class demo pieces and showed us how they came out.

Sue also did the brown/chartreuse piece you can see behind her. At the end of the class she cut that up and gave each of us a piece.

The last day we used paint on our fabrics and had some fun with various contests.

Sue even cut up and distributed the fabric underneath the dye concentrates.

I’ll show closeups of my output soon, but here’s a photo of some of it hanging up on my design wall. You can see my dye color documentation sheet on the table. Each of us was to create a color. Mine was pale apricot, which is on the right in the top row.

The work of many of my classmates was outstanding, as was the sharing that blossomed among the students. As often happens, I relied on the kindness of people who were far more experienced than I, as well as those who over packed.

I did participate in some activities not related to dyeing, such as the impromptu photo shoot of my lunch in the cafeteria. The figures are dear possessions of a QSDS staffer who staged them for her photos. BTW, I really like brussel sprouts.


Filed under dyeing, Fabric Printing, Techniques

Readymade Resists

Quite by accident I found out that white on white printed quilting cotton acts as a resist when painted or dyed. I dyed some fabric pieces that I thought were plain white but weren’t, and I was delighted with the results.

My first cheater resist featured tiny flowers, which aren’t quite my cuppa, but they do stand out.

overdyed-purpleThen, a friend found white fabric woven with polka dots that showed up wonderfully when dye was applied. Here I used periwinkle dye.

overdyed-periwinkleBy this time I began to seek out white on white fabrics I could color. At a store in the middle of Ohio corn fields I found white fabric printed with cracked ice patterns. I used Pebeo Setacolor to paint a strip of it. The white fabric behind the aqua is the original fabric.

overpainted-setacolorThe popularity of white printed on white fabric waxes and wanes, so you might not find plentiful possibilities right now.  Here’s what eQuilter offers at present. However, I suspect if you investigate your stash you may find you already own some examples.


Filed under dyeing, Fabric Printing, Techniques