Tag Archives: Quilt Surface Design Symposium

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

New Projects For The New Year

Besides my carry forwards from 2016 I have new projects to work on in 2017. Only one has a deadline so I have lots of rope with which to hang myself.

The project with a deadline is for my traditional quilt guild. Typically we have a challenge due each year in March to celebrate our Founders Day. This year’s features songs by the Beatles. We signed up for a song from a list. No more than four people could choose the same song. I had no competition for my choice, “Paperback Writer.”

My plan is to recreate the cover of a pulpy paperback. The research will be fun, as such covers often feature dames in deshabille, guns, and square jawed PIs. I just hope we won’t be called on to sing our choices. Here’s a few of my inspiration book covers. I do hope George F. Worts is a pen name.

kill-me-a-little 01-octavus-roy-cohen-theres-always-time-to-die-i-love-you-again-pop-lib050 overboard

Another, much more open ended project is to print/paint/stitch on the silk screen prints I made with thickened dye. The first layers need more, so I hope subsequent layers will improve them.

As a corollary to that project, at the end of May I plan to take a course from Sue Benner at the Quilt Surface Design Symposium in Columbus, Ohio. This will be five days of dye painting and printing. To quote: “Bold and expressive use of Procion MX dyes is the goal of this workshop. Sue teaches her layered painterly approach using direct application, mono-printing, and various other techniques. Emphasis is also placed on developing sophisticated color combinations, using interesting tools, along with adding touches of metallic and opaque fabric paints.”

That’s right, no sewing machine, all fabric creation; and a trip to the 2017 Quilt National exhibit thrown in.

I may also make up some of the sketches I did for my master class. Which sketches may be a function of the fabrics I create. After all, I’ll want to take them out for a spin.

Among the possibilities are:


Elizabeth suggested I darken the road in the background and make the other background colors paler, especially the browns, so they aren’t the darkest values. I found subtlety is difficult with crayons.


Here Elizabeth suggested I crop the image to make it less symmetrical and use subtle color changes so it isn’t matchy-matchy. She really doesn’t seem to care for symmetrical designs.

april-jmm-sketch-2a-resizedThe only advice here was to make sure the water is on a flat plane. It would be the last piece in my salt marsh series, and would represent summer.


Elizabeth liked this dominant color sketch which I would work up in blacks, whites, and grays for an urban feel.

The only other project I have in mind is a vest made of various silks I’ve collected. I have a loose fitting, lined pattern, but need to figure out which silks to back with interfacing. Some of the pieces are quite thin. It will be like doing a crazy quilt. Wow, I haven’t sewn any clothing for myself in decades.

Do you have any plans, quilt-wise, for 2017? If so, I’d love to hear about them.


Filed under Art quilts, Commentary