Jul 22 08

Long Overdue Post (sorry!)

This post has been started 3 separate times since my last post, and for a variety of reasons, it hasn’t made it to my blog and I am now re-writing it for the 3rd time. I got many questions after the last post and I want to address those first and again, my apologies for the delay in getting back to anyone who queried me because DYEING IS REALLY FUN AND I HOPE YOU WILL TRY IT!!
Here goes on the questions:
1. “I am a new dyer and don’t want to buy tons of colors-what should I start with?”
Good question and many people asked this! I buy my dyes from Dharma Trading Company, so I am listing the colors that I could not live without. (Remember, you will end up mixing these, so you’ll actually have many more colors than this once you start dyeing your fabric).
Lemon Yellow
Chinese Red
Fushcia Red
Once you’ve gotten hooked on this new vice, you’ll want tons more colors and these are some others that I buy pretty regularly:
Red wine
Red Violet
Blue Violet
Deep Purple
Aqua Marine
Forest Green
***There is another color, called Terra Cotta, that I bought from a supplier that has since gone out of business, and I use a ton of this stuff!

2. “How do you mix colors?”
I only mix my colors after my dye solution has been mixed up, i.e. I am mixing them directly on the fabric. (See last post picture where I squirt different colors on a piece of damp fabric that has been layed out on a piece of hardboard). Now, this is not the only way to do this, it’s just how I do it. You could mix up powders yourself but know that these dyes can be somewhat unpredictable-sometimes colors will separate. Again, this serendipity is what I love about dyeing…the unexpected makes me excited. This is one of those situations where you learn a lot by doing it, so my advice is that you surrender to the dye and let whatever is gonna happen happen! You can take classes and learn exact formulas to arrive at predictable colors, so if this is what your end goal is, don’t follow my directions!

3. “Can you give more info on the specific fabrics from Hancocks and Joannes?”
You bet I can! Below is a picture of what the end of a bolt of cotton sateen at Hancocks looks like:

…and here is what the end of a bolt of cotton sateen from Joanne’s looks like:

…and here’s what the end of a bolt of Egyptian cotton from Joanne’s looks like:

I really wish that you could reach through this screen and touch the Egyptian cotton because you’d feel just how smooth this fabric is! Now, a couple more things about these fabrics (and remember, if you use your 40% off coupon, these are a steal!!)
– I was taught that I would only get really vibrant colors if I bought the whitest fabrics to dye. That has not been the case with each of these 3 fabrics. If you see an off-white or a “natural” of any of these 3 fabrics, buy them as well because these will also take the dye beautifully!
-If the bolt of cotton sateen at Joanne’s has a hint of a pink cast to it, don’t be afraid of it. It will take the dye great and will not affect your final colors!
-At Hancocks, you may also see many other “light” colors like powder blue and violet. These overdye very well.

3. “Can you really wash these out in your regular washing machine?”
YES!!!! When I first learned to dye, I would hand wash everything first for tons of time to try and get out as much dye as possible. This was really a pain in the neck, took a lot of time that I didn’t want to spare, and it gets your wrists and fingers very sore by the end of the day. On top of that, my fabrics were still full of dye by the time they went into the washing machine, so it actually was a big mess for no gain! I read on someone’s blog that they just left their pieces out to dry and put the dry pieces into the wash so I figured I’d give it a try…this was LIFE-CHANGING for me!! No more mess! If it’s winter and I can’t leave stuff outside to dry, I leave fans blowing on the fabric in the garage and once it’s dry, bring it inside to drop into my machine. This is SO much easier!!!
Now, I DON”T EVER wash my clothes in the same load that I’m dying. Once I’m done washing my dyed fabric, the drum of the machine is completely clean and is ready to accept a load of clothes. The only place where I need to check is around the rim, which is actually outside the drum where the clothes go. Sometimes, there will be little whisps of dye here and I take a damp paper towel and they come right up, easy as pie!

4. “How do you keep your fabric from blowing away?”
Another good question! Most days, I don’t have to worry about this, but sometimes it’s a breezy day and stuff starts blowing. Usually, it’s not an issue right off the bat because the fabric is quite wet once you apply the dye and it kind of “seals” to the dye platter below it. But, as it dries, if there’s wind, it can lift it and a corner may flip onto a wet spot. Bummer! If I’m in wind, I place tiny rocks on the 4 corners of my piece of fabric. I try not to do that until those corners have dried, but sometimes you just have to.

5. “How do you get that wonderful green I see on so many of your quilts?”
Easy! That green is a mixture of lemon yellow and turquoise. Again, these solutions are mixed directly on the fabric. Usually, I put the yellow on first if I can. The reason for this is that some colors are very dominant and can “hog” the limelight, if you know what I mean. To see what I mean, place some yellow on a piece of fabric and then add red. Now, on another piece of fabric, start with red and add yellow. You’ll get very different oranges depending on which color you start with! Again, this is the fun of playing with the dyes! In truth, all of these colors are beautiful!

On to something else here…I finally finished that small wall hanging I started ages ago. I actually can’t stand it, so I had to keep forcing myself to go back to it to get the darn thing finished:

The flower is the only part I’m fond of: the flower is trapuntoed and I really like the surrounding finr black line:

And of course, I can’t quilt a quilt without feathers! Really, they are just so much fun to quilt that I’m always looking for an excuse to stitch them:

I quilted the border with the irregular swirl design, the inner border with a linear swirl design, and the center with the “plumify it” design:

And now, it’s time for bed!


  1. Micki Says:

    I just found your wonderful blog. Thank you so much for all of the information about fabric dyeing. I am hoping to do some in the near future and can use all the help I can get. Your information will be very helpful.
    Your dyed fabric is awesome and so are your quilts and quilting. I will be bookmarking your site.

  2. Judy Says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to explain fabric dyeing simply, but with all the crucial details! You have removed the uncertainty in my mind, and I can’t wait to get started. Your hand dyed fabric is motivation enough—it is beautiful!

  3. Alice Says:

    Patsy, thank you for the detailed info on dyeing. I know where to come, when I am there.

    I will need to wait a bit before I take the jump into dyeing… trying to find product, and well, I have a few other projects that have to be finished first.

    Your wall-hanging is quite pretty.


  4. Bethel of Bethania Says:

    G’day Patsy,
    I found your website/blog at U-Tube and loved your imprompture videos on Trapunto so had to come have a look at your site. I can see I can spend quite some time here ready your very interesting & informative posts. thanks for the inspiration … OOroo … Bethel of Bethania from Down Under …

  5. Kim Frey Says:

    What are the steps used to prepare fabric, mix dyes, and dye fabric? There are so many different processes, I was wondering if you would share yours. Sincerely, Your New Mentoree!