Long Overdue Post (sorry!)

July 22nd, 2008

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!

New Experimental Quit and Fabric Fireworks!

July 11th, 2008

I get a fair number of emails requesting that I cover specific topics or techniques in DVDs. The request I’ve received most times is to show video footage that outlines strategies to quit a really big quilt on a HDSM using push-through free motion quilting. So, we’re going to have a chapter on that in the next dvd and we started shooting that chapter when we were in Asheville a couple of weeks ago. This is a top I bought on ebay and with the backing fabric and batting added, it’s 100 in x 100 inches. Here’s a shot of part of it quilted:

The background quilting is the irregular swirl from the innies and outies family, and it’s a dense enough background fill design that it makes the feathers appear as if they were trapuntoed when, in fact, they are not. This shot of the center shows it a bit better:

This has been a very fun quilt to work on and I’ll post more on it as it’s finished. I have also gotten a TON of emails lately asking questions about fabric dyeing, so I’m going to post about it again here so I don’t have to keep answering these emails individually! If you haven’t dyed fabric yet and have been toying with the idea, I recommend that you do it! You can drive yourself totally nuts reading about it because every source will tell you something just a bit different, but this is one of those things that you really learn by doing. What I’m going to outline now is what I do…it works great for me and is as carefree and fun as I can make it. I am always pressed for time so I have simplified this and eliminated any parts that I have found to be unnecessary. Here goes!
1. Fabric- I do NOT dye PFD fabric (prepared for dying fabric). It’s expensive, not readily available to me locally, and I’m always doing laundry anyway, so it’s no big deal to me to pre-wash a bunch of fabric that I’m going to dye. I LOVE the fabrics that I dye regularly:
-100% cotton sateen from Hancock Fabrics (the chain, NOT Hancocks of Paducah)-this retails for $5.99/yd but with your 40% off coupon, it’s only $3.59-that’s a fraction of the cost of PFD fabric
-100% Egyptian cotton from Joanne Fabrics at $6.99/yd; this comes to $4.19/yd with the 40% coupon. The hand of this fabric is so smooth and soft and it has a very tight weave. This is a very nice fabric to work with.
-100% cotton sateen from Joanne fabrics-$5.99/yd and this is $3.59/yd after the 40% off coupon. This takes the dye well but not quite as vibrantly as the cotton sateen from Hancocks. I use them both for different effects.
-30 mm and 19 mm 100% silk charmeuse from Exotic silks. SILKS DO NOT NEED TO BE PRE-WASHED BECAUSE THERE ARE NO FINISHES APPLIED TO THEM!
When you read about dyeing fabrics, almost every source says you need to pre-wash in Synthrapol. I used to do that, but it’s expensive and I’ve found it to be unnecessary. I pre-wash with my regular detergent, which happens to be liquid TIDE.
2. “Pre-treatment of fabrics
Once you’ve cut your fabrics to sizes that will be useful to you and pre-washed them, they need to soak in a bath of soda ash and water for at least 10 minutes before you dye them. I am very loose about how I mix up this bath-I pour about a 1/2 cup of soda ash into 3-5 gallons of water. I don’t measure any of this out and am totally winging it as I go. Once the soda ash has dissolved, add your fabrics and any threads you’ll be dyeing as below:

Do you see some skeins of thread in that bath? Those are 100% bamboo threads that began as below:

3. Mixing your dyes-To dye cottons, rayons, bamboo and silks, I use Procian- MX dyes. I buy them as a powder and mix with water. WEARING A FACE MASK, (don’t even THINK about not wearing a mask during this portion-these powders are highly toxic to your lungs and although you probably won’t have anything bad happen to you as you are dyeing, you will develop progressive lung disease in the future that you really don’t want, so heed the warnings on this!), I place 1 TBSP of dye powder in a measuring cup and add about 1/4 cup of hot tap water and then I stir until the powder is disssolved; then add water until you reach the 2 cups line on the cup. I pour this into a squirt bottle and I’m ready to go. This part is the tedious part of dyeing, so once you’re done with this part, the fun REALLY begins! Remove that face mask once all dye powder is mixed or put away into closed containers.

4. Wring out your fabric and threads, getting as much soda ash/water out as possible. Then, place them into your washing machine and run them through the spin cycle. DO THIS STEP! I didn’t do this for the first year or so that I dyed fabric and once I started doing it, my colors became much more vibrant!

5. I like to blend my colors directly on the fabric because the interface of the colors coming together is ALWAYS very cool! The way I do this is I spread out a piece of fabric onto a flat surface. (I cover 4 ft x 8 ft pieces of hardboard with contact paper and these are my surfaces that I can just keep using over and over again). I squirt out some dye onto the damp fabric and it will slowly bleed since the fabric is wet. I add different colors and get something like this:

There are different things you can do to get different effects. For example, do you see these giant bubbles under the fabric here?

Personally, I adore those bubbles, because dye will pool around them and when you wash the fabric out, you get some really cool effects. Some people don’t like them and spoon them out to get a more uniform effect. These are the kinds of fun things you will learn as you spend time messing around with dyeing. Here’s another example…as you add colors, they will bleed into one another. Sometimes, I leave it just as they bled together:

Sometimes, you’re not wanting that effect, and what I do then is finger painting! You just use your gloved hand to kind of mix things up a bit, and you’ll get a totally different look! Here are some red fabrics I was dyeing on the 4th of July; this is my version of fireworks:

Once you have your fabric piece colored, you just lay it out in the sun to dry. You’ll get your best results if you dye on a sunny hot day that’s over 70 degrees. Notice in all these pictures that you just see fabric laying out in the sun. In pretty much every source you read, you’ll be told that you should batch your fabrics by covering them w/a layer of plastic. I used to do that and I’ve found that my colors are just as vibrant if I don’t do it, so I’ve been skipping that step for the past 2 1/2 years. This is a nice step to skip because you don’t have pieces of dye-covered plastic to clean up and you don’t have to use plastic unnecessarily!

6. Thread Dyeing-After I’ve wrung out my thread, I lay it out on either a plastic tote lid or a piece of old cardboard that I’ve covered with contact paper:

Using my squirt bottle, I add some dye and then I use a foam brush to make sure the dye has penetrated all layers of that skein. (This part is important because it’s heartbreaking if you don’t get the dye on ALL parts of the thread-ask me how I know!)

Using a squirt bottle with another color, I do the same thing. Just like with fabrics, you’ll get some neat effects where the colors bleed into one another:

Once done, lay those threads out in the sun just like you layed the fabric out there! Once the threads have dried, scrunch them into a wad and shove them into a piece of old pantyhose and tie a knot. If you have more than 1 skein, you’ll end up with a piece of “beaded pantyhose:”

7. The big wash out!
Once everything has dried, I throw it into the washing machine. I wash blue/greens together and reds/oranges/yellows in a separate load. My first wash is in hot water and then I do 2 washes in cold water. Once done, everything goes into the dryer, including the threads in the pantyhose. Again, almost every source will tell you to use Synthrapol as your detergent, but I use the liquid TIDE I use for all my other laundry.

Hope this encourages someone to try it…it makes a mess but it’s really fun once you actually do it and you’ll create some beautiful one of a kind fabrics!