The Joy of Dyeing

Lest you, good readers, misread the above and think this is going to be about a metaphoric death resulting from an existential crisis, let me set you straight, it’s not.  This is about dyes, dyeing fabric and design.  Now if you’re like me, you might be thinking – oh who has time for all that? – but let me tell you, there’s so much more to dyeing than you think.  Get it?  Trying not to laugh, really, really trying…   It’s impossible to write a post about dyeing and not keep thinking of all the puns one makes without even trying…  This is just too easy.  You might dye of laughing… hee-hee!  

Ahem.

Okay.

Seriously.

I never thought I’d enjoy dyeing fabric.  I always felt there’s so much great fabric out there, why would I want to dye my own?  Well…  it turns out, not only was I wrong, but what a beautiful world it is once you begin dyeing!  Before I get ahead of myself, this all began because I was looking for blogs by quilters who are also artists.  As I was looking around I found the extremely talented artist Elizabeth Barton, and her blog, Art and Quilts, Cogitations Thereon.   What a find!  I read this post, The Proliferation of Online Classes, which I then felt compelled to comment on, which in turn led me to investigate the classes Elizabeth teaches and in particular one that began a week ago Friday, which I promptly signed up for. Her five week online class, given through The Academy of Quilting, is titled – Dyeing to Design.  Love that.

Dyeing has never called to me, but I enjoyed reading Elizabeth’s blog, really like her work, and this class had the most immediate starting date and I’m impatient, so I thought – Why not?  This is one of the many wonderful things about being new to something, it never hurts to try something you’ve never done before and the worst that can happen is you discover it’s not for you and you move on.  On the other hand, you might fall in love with whatever it is, become totally obsessed and that is a indescribable joy unlike any other.  The latter pretty much describes my experience with quilting and fiber art.  And so it was again, with dyeing and this class, now in its second week.  What a fantastic class.  I cannot recommend it, and Elizabeth Barton, more highly!!

It helps that Elizabeth is a terrific instructor, very responsive and thorough, has a great eye, and gives excellent feedback.  She writes extensive instructions with good explanations and examples of her own work to illustrate what she’s talking about.  The first week we dove right in mixing all our various dyes for the next five weeks and did this – gradations of black (photograph below.)  You’ll notice the mottled effect, which I think is so beautiful and striking.  As we were working with black and since there’s no such thing, the blues, pinks and greens can be seen in different areas.  The organic look to the fabric also appeals to my sense of design and so I was hooked.  Totally fell in love.  Completely.  Dramatically.  In.  Love. Gradations.JPGDesigning a piece using these gradations was next.  I had a couple ideas and with Elizabeth’s encouragement settled on this one, which also happened to be the first idea I came up with.  Gradations Sketch.JPG

I  decided I would cut the fabric into 2.5″ squares, which meant that after they’d been sewn together they would be 2″ squares, gradating from light to dark, but a little unevenly to keep things interesting.  This is how it looked positioned on my design wall.  Lesson 1 design.JPG

Emboldened by Elizabeth’s helpful suggestions, I made a few adjustments and began sewing all those squares together.  That’s a whole lot of squares…The beginning-Sketch1_Lesson1.JPG After consulting Elizabeth (again), she suggested linear and horizontal stitching, I began quilting, but left the larger square alone as I wasn’t sure what to do with it.  I wanted to do something, but couldn’t figure out what.Quilting Sketch1_lesson1.JPG

Back to Elizabeth who gave me more excellent feedback, suggesting a different color thread and syncopating the stitches so they didn’t meet with the other lines from the larger piece, and off I went to finish it.  I decided against a binding, instead made a facing out of my lightest grey and backed it with a piece of red fabric I had.  I made a label, again from one of the light greys and voila!  This piece, entitled Living in the Grey, is 17″X 23.5″.

Living in the Grey.jpgLivingInTheGrey_Back.JPGThe thing about dyeing your own fabric is how utterly seductive it is.  You can mix any color you want by tweaking the proportions of your primary colors.  The mottled effect enhances the overall feel of the fabric, making it completely unique and like no other.

We are now in Week Two and are dyeing as many colors as we have the time, inclination and material for.  Of course I went totally nuts with dyeing all the possibilities.  I admit – I’ve now dyed every color including varying intensities and am eager to start experimenting with the subtler, more nuanced shades of each, but ran out of fabric, dye and other materials I need, so will have to wait until all the things I’ve ordered arrive.  Here’s a sneak peak of a few of the colors I dyed over the weekend,  (and stayed up until 3 or 4am, I can’t remember now, to do so!) getting ready for my next design using colors.  Lots and lots of colors.  You could even say…  colors to dye for.  Oh behave yourself!

I’m just dyeing to read your comments.   Okay, okay, I’ll stop.

No, really.

I promise.

You have no idea how hard I’m restraining myself right now.

10 thoughts on “The Joy of Dyeing

  1. What sort of dye do you use? The results are truly spectacular. I particularly like the purples and the blues at the top of the sample chart. But then you know me, a purple and blue sort of person. And to think that we used to call your grandmother The Great Blue Mother!
    No wonder you love to dye!

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    1. It is a special dye used for fabric. There are a number of different brands, but the one I’ve been using is called Procion MX. I’d like to start playing around with the colors to see if I can achieve some of the more nuanced shades like olive and dark red, chartreuse etc.

      Like

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