February 25, 2011

Fabric Dyeing Part I

Hand-dyed fat quarters.

So, in my spare time (insert laugh track), I like to dye fabric. I can't really tell you how I started on this other than my aunt was doing it, so I decided to do it too. (Am I really the kind who would jump off the cliff because everyone was doing it?)

Quite honestly, it's kind of a pain, but the results are so wonderful that it's worth every bit of the time it takes! You never know what you're going to get. You can't really plan it out ahead of time or predict how the dye will react with the fabric on any given day, so every piece of fabric you dye is a complete surprise! Above is my most favorite batch to date. It's a simple rainbow with a squirt or two of black added to the mix. I used these for the quilt on my bed. To see it, click here. Another favorite is shown below.

When you do a lot of applique, like I do, it's nice to have one piece of fabric that has light and dark areas to make natural things, like flowers, look more realistic. It's also more interesting to look at. It's all in how you fold, scrunch and manipulate the fabric when dyeing it to get different effects. This gold has long, almost like ribbons throughout that looks like the bark of a tree to me. In fact, I did use this for the trunk of a tree, (but I can't show that to you yet!).
I folded this 1/2-yard cut into quarters (longwise)
then thirds (width-wise) to get the tree bark effect.
Air bubbles trapped in the fabric during dyeing created the circles
So now I have designed a quilt for the new book and I can't find the fabric I want for it. I hate when it works out that way. Sometimes the fabric comes before the design (easy) and sometimes the design comes before the fabric (harder). That means it's time to put the mask and gloves back on and dye my own! I'm looking for a 4-step gradation of a solid teal blue. I thought I'd step you through the process I use so you can see how I create these one-of-a-kind fabrics!

Now for the disclaimer. I am in no way an expert on fabric dyeing. I just read some books and bought some equipment and jumped in. I'm inherently lazy, so I combine steps or skip them all together! I'm sure the professional dyers, who really know what they are doing would cringe at my methodology and the products I use. But, I get results I like and use in my quilts with no problems. If you are inspired by my posts and want to try dyeing yourself, I highly recommend that you do your own research or take a class and figure out what works for you. Okay?

Next time: The equipment and preparing the fabric for dyeing.

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